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Second printing 1993. 

Copyright © 1992 by Journal of African Civilizations Ltd., Inc. 

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright 
Conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any 
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, 
recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior 
permission in writing from the publisher. 

ISSN: 0270-2495 

ISBN: 1-56000-581-5 

Printed in the United States of America 

Cover design by Jacqueline L Patten-Van Sertima 

VOL. 11 


FALL, 1991 




l.(a) The Moor in Africa and Europe: 

Origins and Definitions 
Ivan Van Sertima 

1. (b) The Moor in Eurdpe: 

Influences and Contributions 

Ivan Van Sertima 

2. (a) The Moors in Antiquity 

James E. Brunson and Runoko Rashidi 

2. (b) The Empire of the Moors 

(An outline; based on interview and summary) 

John G. Jackson 

3. The African Heritage & Ethnohistory of the Moors: 
Background to the emergence of early Berber and Arab 
peoples, from prehistory to the Islamic Dynasties 
Dana Reynolds 


4. The Moor: Light of Europe’s Dark Age 

Wayne Chandler 

5. Moorish Spain: Academic Source and Foundation for 
the Rise and Success of Western European Universities 
in the Middle Ages 

Jose V. Pimienta-Bey 

6. Moorish Culture-Bringers: 

Bearers of Enlightenment 

Jan Carew 

7. The Music of the Moors in Spain 
(Al-Andalus, 711-1492 A.D.) 

Origin of Andalusian Musical Art: 

Its Development and Influence on Western Culture 

Yusef Ali 











The Moors and Portugal’s Global Expansion 
Edward Scobie 



Africans in the Birth and Expansion of Islam 

Mamadou Chinyelu 




Cairo: Science Academy of the Middle Ages 
Beatrice Lumpkin and Siham Zitler 





The Egyptian Precursor to Greek and “Arab” Science 

The Judgement 

Supplements to the Indictment 

Ivan Van Sertima 




An Annotated Bibliograpy of the Moors: 
711-1492 A.D. 

James Ravell 



Biographical Notes on Contributors 


Ivan Van Sertima 

1. Origins and Definitions 

It is generally assumed that the movement of Africans into Europe, in 
significantly large numbers and into positions of real power, did not occur 
until the Muslim invasion of Spain in 71 1 A.D. In Al-Makkary ’s History of the 
Mohammedan Dynasties' in Spain , however, we learn of a great drought that 
afflicted Spain about three thousand years ago, a catastrophe that was fol- 
lowed not long afterwards by an invasion from Africa. This, of course, had 
nothing to do with the medieval Moors, with which this book is primarily 
concerned, but it is worth noting here because it actually established an 
ancient African dynasty in Spain, a fact that is omitted from the official 

The drought that devastated Spain, however, is described by a number of 
Spanish historians. Pedro de Medina in Libro de las Grandezas de Espana, 
published in Seville in 1549, dates the drought at 1070 B.C. Ibn-l-Khattib Al- 
Makkary (in his major historical work, translated by Pascual de Gayangos 1 ) 
describes it in some detail. It is Al-Makkary also who informs us of how 
Africans banished from North Africa by an African king against whom they 
revolted, entered Spain and took control of that country. The leader of the 
Africans is recorded as Batrikus. What his original name was we do not know 
but it survives as Batrikus in the Latin of the Romans because it was the 
Romans who defeated these Africans 157 years later. 

These Africans first cast anchor at a place on the western shore of Spain 
and settled at Cadiz. Advancing into the interior of the country, they spread 
themselves about, extended their settlements, built cities and towns and 
increased their numbers by marriage. They settled in that part of the country 
between the place of their landing in the west, and the country of the Franks in 
the east, and appointed kings to rule over them and administer their affairs. 
They fixed their capital at Talikah (Italica) a city now in ruins, which once 
belonged to the district of Isbilah, which is the modern Seville. But, after a 
period of one hundred and fifty seven years, during which eleven kings of the 
African race reigned over Andalus they were annihilated by the Romans, who 
invaded and conquered the country. 2 

The second major intrusion of an African army into Spain before the 
Moors, occurs sometime around 700 B.C. during the period of the 25th 
dynasty in Egypt, when the Ethiopian Taharka was a young general, but 
before he had been ceded the throne by his uncle Shabataka. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

It is this same Taharka (referred to in early Spanish chronicles as Tarraco) 
that led a garrison into Spain and invaded it during this period. We have a 
clear and indisputable reference to this in a manuscript by Florian de Ocampo 
Cronica General published in Medina del Campo in 1553. 3 The name of the 
invading general is given as Tarraco. He is not only identified as head of the 
Ethopian army. The reference is more specific. It says he was later to become 
a King of Egypt. The name, the period, the historical fact of his generalship 
and his later kingship of Egypt, his Ethiopian origin and the wide-ranging 
trade and exploration of the Ethiopian in this period, all attest to the validity of 
this reference. But most persuasive of all is the fact that cartouches of the 
Upper Egyptian kings of this period have been found in Spain. Evidence of 
such cartouches may be found in the Journal of the Epigraphic Society (Vol 7, 
No. 171— April 1979). 4 The cartouche* of Shishonq, a Libyan king, was found 
in Tomb 16, Almunecar, Spain. The Libyans ruled with the support of Nubian 
armies from the 22nd to the 24th dynasties and were overthrown by the 
Nubians in the 25th. [see plate 1] 

The fact that Africans from the North had been intruding into Southern 
Europe from very early times should not come as a great surprise, for the 
straits that separate the two continents can be crossed by the simplest boats in 
a matter of hours. The proximity of the borders of Europe and Africa and the 
evidence of the African phenotype among many southern Europeans led 
Napoleon to remark that “Africa begins at the Pyrenees.” Many historians, 
however, make clear-cut distinctions between the early North Africans and 
the Africans of the Sahara. They contend that the Africans who made contact 
and left their mark on Europe should not be confused with the sub-Saharan 
African type. They see these people as Euro-Africans (another version of the 
“brown Mediterranean race” myth used to account for the genius of ancient 
Egypt). Since many North Africans in modern times seem to fit into this 
theoretical construct it has worked very well to confuse and confound the 
definition of their ethnicity. Some of our contributors, although well grounded 
in their particular areas of expertise, are vague about the origins of the North 
African tribes and the complex of historical factors that have transformed the 
cultural and physical configuration of these people. This has compelled me to 
use my editorial mandate and overview to bring what I hope is a more decisive 
clarity to this matter. 

The people whom the classical Greek and Roman authors called Berber 
were mainly Black and affiliated with the then contemporary peoples of the 
East African area. The word Berber was used in fact to refer to peoples of the 
Red Sea area in Africa as well as North Africans. It was an ancient belief that 
the nomads dwelling in the deserts of Arabia were the same peoples whose 
ancestors had in earlier times roamed the deserts of East Africa. It was such 

* A cartouche is an ornamental carving or scroll depicting characters that represent the 
name of a sovereign. 

Van Sertima 

A Cartouche of Shishonq from Almunecar, Southern Spain 

Barry Fell 

To left , actual cartouche as engraved on an alabaster trade vase found In 
T omb 16, Almunecar (courtesy Inst ituto -Arqueologico Aleman de Madrid), To 
right , same cartouche as rendered in the British Museum style. This, and 
other similar examples, show how carelessly even royal names may be rend- 
ered by ancient scribes. 

Evidence of contact between Spain and Upper Egypt in the First 
MHleniura B.C. 

Courtesy of the Journal of the Epigraphic Society 

Figure 1 



Golden Age of the Moor Van Sertima 

populations that largely comprised the Moorish people, called Moors (from 
the Greek maures, the Roman maurus = dark) because of the attribute of 
blackness which sharply distinguished them from the bulk of the European 

However, the inhabitants of present-day North Africa are considered ethni- 
cally and culturally distinct from people dwelling south of the Sahara. This is 
only so today because of the considerable influx of European types during the 
white slave trade and their later movement in positions of dominance after the 
defeat of the Moors. 

The seven hundred years during which the Moors dominated the Iberian 
peninsula was an era in which many Europeans came into North Africa in 
states of servitude. The Muslims brought millions of European slaves over to 
the North African ports of Sale, Tangier, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Fez and 
Marrakesh and some of the northern Egyptian towns. One very famous 
Sultan, Mulai Ismail of Meknes, in Morocco, had as many as 25,000 Euro- 
pean slaves who participated in the building of his colossal stables. 5 Sudanese 
were also taken into slavery but before the fifteenth century not as many as the 
whites. It was these Europeans who began to modify through intermixture the 
earlier black inhabitants of North Africa. This is what eventually made so 
many North Africans appear different from the sub-Saharan Africans. 

The anthropologist, Dana Reynolds, in an exhaustive and meticulously 
detailed essay, has attempted to trace the African roots of the original North 
African peoples. She cites half a dozen Greek and Byzantine (neo-Roman 
writers) from the first to the sixth century AD, who describe the Berber 
population of North Africa as black-skinned. Among these writers are Martial, 
Silius Italicus, Corippus and Procopius. 

The original Black Berbers, who were called Moors, were the North 
African ancestors of the present day dark-brown and brown-black peoples of 
the Sahara and the Sahel, mainly those called Fulani, Tuareg, Zenagha of 
Southern Morocco, Kunta and Tebbu of the Sahel countries as well as other 
black Arabs now living in Mauretania and throughout the Sahel. They include 
the Trarza of Mauretania and Senegal, the Mogharba as well as dozens of 
other Sudanese tribes, the Chaamba of Chad and Algeria. 

Apart frop her very detailed study of the origins and affiliations of the 
various tribes, she points out that the Africans involved in the Moorish 
occupation of Iberia did not just build remarkable things in Europe but also in 
their native lands. They founded and constructed many industrious and pros- 
perous towns all over the north of Africa and as far south as Timbuctoo. The 
ruins of their many castles can be seen as much in Northern Africa as in 

The evidence Reynolds presents to establish the Africoid base of the 
Berbers is challenged by Wayne Chandler who insists that the Berbers were 
already heavily mixed with a caucasoid element before the Moorish invasion. 

They were classified as the “tawny Moors” and are to be distinguished, says 
he, from the “Blackamoors.” They are the result of a mixing of black Africans 
(the Garamantes of the Sahara) with a race of white Libyans. This clash of 
views has led to a stimulating debate. Let me state the case as presented by 
both contestants. 

At the heart of the history of the ancient Moors, says Chandler, are the 
Garamantes of the Sahara. The Garamantes were black Africans who occu- 
pied much of northern Africa. They can be considered the ancestors of the 
true Moors. Contemporary with the Garamantes were the Libyans. Originally, 
claims Chandler, these Libyans (whom Menes attacked and defeated in the 
first dynasty) were Caucasians. They were called by their black conquerors 
“tamahu.” In Egyptian tama means pepple and hu is white or light ivory. Thus 
they were the white or lighLskinned people. Portraits of the battle between 
Menes and these people indicate, according to Chandler, that they were a 
different race from the ancient dark-skinned Egyptian. These light-skinned 
people intermarried with the many blacks on all sides of them he claims, and 
became the “tawny Moors” or “white Moors”, also known as Berber from the 
Roman barbari — barbarian. The Arabs adopted this Roman term for them 
and changed it to Berber. Eventually the word Libyan and Berber became 
synonymous in some places. 

The Sahara, he contends, came to be occupied by two distinct groups — the 
original Moors (Garamantes) and the Berbers, who later became the “tawny” 
or “white” Moors. The rest of North Africa, from Egypt through the Fezzan 
and the west of the Sahara to what is now called Morocco and Algeria, were 
peopled by black Africans, also called Moors by the Romans and the later 
Europeans. Eventually these Moors would join with “Arabs” to become a 
united and powerful force. 

“Names like Tamahu ,” Dana Reynolds points out, in a lengthy correspon- 
dence with me, “while originally used for indigenous Libyans, came to be 
used for the foreign colonists and mercenaries. For the Egyptian artist such 
names apparently possessed only geographical or national significance rather 
than ethnic or “racial” meaning. The earliest portrayals of Tamahou, however, 
rule out the idea that the word meant “ivory” or “white-skinned” people (as 
Chandler claims). A similar claim had been made for the earlier Libyan name 
Tehenou but as O. Bates and more recently Vichcyl point out, both of these 
names were first applied to men portrayed in Egyptian iconography with 
dark-brown skins and they were obviously of a different race and culture than 
the later blond invaders. 

“F. Behrens, A. Arkell and several other specialists in the archaeology of 
Nubia and the south eastern Sahara have come to see the C-group culture as 
the population which was first designated Tamahou in the 6th dynasty. They 
were a relatively tall, slender, and obviously black population of pastoral 
nomads who came to settle in Nubia. The tombs they used belonged to the 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Berber kind found all over ancient North Africa ... this type of man was, 
judging from the skeletal evidence and eyewitness accounts of early Euro- 
pean historians, the predominant population of North Africa even at the time 
of the first Arab penetration into North Africa.” (See Chandler’s response in 
Appendix to this editorial.) 

In his discussion of Berber ethnic origins, Jose Pimenta-Bey cites the views 
of Chiekh Anta Diop. On the matter of the Moors and the Berbers, however, 
Diop is not particularly helpful. It is refreshing that Bey sees this very clearly 
and qualifies his support. Although he cites the master with respect he does 
not follow him. Diop makes the unsupportable claim that the Berbers were 
post-Islamic invaders. His uncharacteristically uninformed commentary on 
the Moors led me to delete that section of his otherwise remarkable paper, 
which it was my honor to read at the Nile Valley Conference held in Atlanta in 
1984. 6 

On the poor state of mathematics and astronomy in Europe at the time of 
the invasion, Diop was his usually perceptive self but he must have mixed up 
time-levels in a hurried look at the Berber. Sources on the Moors also seemed 
to be rather sparse in French. It is possible that General Martel’s defeat of the 
Moors and their virtual expulsion from France may account for this. 

Professor Lotfi of Morocco University, whom Bey also cites, in no way 
“proves the contention that the Berber and the Moor are synonymous terms.” 
They probably were, but it is certainly not established by any of Lotfi ’s 
arguments, which indicate an Africoid element but considerable ethnic diver- 
sity among the Berbers. Such contradictions can only be resolved by concen- 
tration on specific time-levels and an ability to demonstrate conclusively how 
this web of ethnic threads sprang from a single node. Only Reynolds offers 
this type of concentrated argument and documentation.* Bey, however, pro- 
vides the most wide-ranging and well-researched thesis done so far to estab- 
lish the great debt Europe owes to Moorish scholarship. 

The essay of Runoko Rashidi and James Brunson provides us with one of 
the most comprehensive examinations of the use of the word Moor but they 
concede that it is still difficult to arrive at the precise ethnicity of a Moor 
through mere terminology alone. The fact that the term was originally in- 
tended to refer to a black or dark-skinned person, as they have shown, does 
not mean that everyone called a Moor is African or of African descent. The 
Arabs, themselves, rarely used the term Moor. They often used the term 
Berber for the non-Arabian people of Northwest Africa with whom they came 
in contact and who joined with them in the invasion of Europe. The early 
Christians also used the term “Saracen” indiscriminately to cover both “Moors” 
as well as other Muslim population s in general. Readers of the recent popular 

* Editor's Note: Lay-readers are advised to concentrate on the introduction and con- 
clusions to Reynolds’ essay, since the bulk of it is presented in a style intended 
primarily for the perusal of specialists. 

Van Sertima 

edition of The Moors in Spain by Stanley Lane-Poole will seldom find refer- 
ences to color but a frequent use of the word Saracen. 

The Moors, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, are people who 
are commonly supposed to be black or very dark and it is synonymous with 
the word for “Negro” in many contexts. Rashidi and Brunson provides 
numerous examples of the synonymity of Moor with Black during the Euro- 
pean Renaissance and earlier. The word runs like a ripple across a vast pool of 

“During the European Renaissance, explorers, writers and scholars began 
to apply the term Moor to Blacks in general. A prominent example of this 
tendency can be found in the work of Richard Hakluyt, a fifteenth-century 
traveller. Hakluyt recorded that, “In old times the people of Africa were called 
aethiops and nigritae, which we now call Moores , Moorens, ox Negroes ... In 
the Romance languages (Spanish, French and Italian) of Medieval Europe, 
Moor was translated as Moro , Moir } and Mor. Derivatives of the word Moor 
may be found even today in these same languages. In Spanish, for example, 
the word for blackberry is mora — a noun which originally meant Moorish 
woman. Also in Spanish, the adjective for dark-complexioned, which now 
means brunette, is moreno. We find a similar legacy in the French language. 
In French moricaud means dark-skinned or blackamoor, while morillon means 
black grape. Again, as in the Spanish, the Italian word mora means Negro or 
Moorish female. Also in Italian, mora means blackberry, while moraiola means 
black olive.” 

As pointed out above, the Arabs rarely used this word. In Arabic literature 
the word Moor was fairly non-existent and the term Berber was applied to 
practically all the inhabitants of the Maghrib (Islamic North Africa west of 
Egypt). The Arab use of the word Berber presents further difficulty since the 
term embraces many clans, not all of whom are Black. It is because of this that 
Rashidi and Brunson, as well as the anthropologist Dana Reynolds, have gone 
to the trouble in certain contexts to identify those Berber clans of Africoid or 
predominantly Africoid origin. 

The most important identifier, of course, is to be found in medieval 
painting and sculpture. It is claimed that certain Islamic traditions inhibited 
the representation of the human image in the work of Muslim artists and even 
in cases (some medieval Persian art, for example) where this inhibition does 
not seem to have obliterated portrait art, the human image is often frozen, 
non-individualistic and unreal. We are grateful, therefore, that, in spite of 
their prejudices, the Christians left vivid images of the Muslim Black. While 
the Black figure at times takes on a demonic quality or emerges as an 
exaggerated caricature of the African, these paintings and sculptures are an 
indisputable witness to his presence and importance in this period. 

Such illustrations are to be found in the Cantigas of Santa Maria, allegedly 
written by Alphonso X (1254-1286). They are filled with images of the Moor 



Golden Age of the Moor Van Sertima 

and are mostly Black types. This is the period of the Almoravid invasion 
which brought hordes of new Africans into the Iberian peninsula. Medieval 
illustrators in the Cantigas portray Blacks in a variety of roles -from mem- 
bers of the aristocracy to the military. Included among the images of medieval 
Spain is a Black man receiving gifts from a caliph or emir. In another 
illustration two noble black Moors are shown playing chess while being 
attended by black and white servants and musicians. Also, in the army of the 
Almoravid, black Moors are shown not only as foot soldiers, bowmen, lancers 
and horsemen but high-ranking officers. This needs to be emphasized since 
historians have repeatedly presented Blacks in these contexts as mere palace 
guards, harem-keepers and muscle-mounted mercenaries. 

Let us not pretend, however, that racism just roiled over and died when it 
was struck by the lightning of Islam. There were more positive black images, 
to be sure, in the Koran than in the Bible, far more black figures emerging as 
supreme powers in Islamic lands than in the lands of European Christendom. 
God created man of black clay, says the Koran, and the scandalous story of the 
curse of Ham (which gave so many bigots an almost divine justification for 
despising Blacks) had no place in the Islamic scriptures. Where in the legend 
of the early Christian world could we find figures like the black general 
Ubadah who commanded the surrender of Egypt from Europeans? 7 Or a re- 
vered Black like Bilal, among the first companions of the Prophet, a third 
pillar of the faith, who brought the infidel forces of Syria to their knees? 
Search as hard as you may though the Christian pantheon of heroes and you 
will never find the likes of Ya’kub Ibn Yusuf, also known as al-Mansur, who 
ruled Morocco from 1149-1189 and invaded Andalusia twice, becoming one 
of the greatest of the Moorish rulers of Spain. And on what throne in Europe, 
save in the Muslim domains, sits one comparable to Ibrahim-al-Mahdi, black 
poet and musician, who became ruler of Syria in 686 AD and was elected 
twenty-five years later as Caliph of all Muslim Spain? 

As St. Clair Drake points out, making a very serious qualitative distinction, 
the election by elders of a Black to rule all of Muslim Spain makes this, in 
spite of the presence of color prejudice, which Islam mediated but could not 
obliterate, very different from the system of color-caste that would eventually 
develop in the New World diaspora. 8 

What led to this qualitative difference? According to Professor Drake, 
The cultures conquered by the Muslims adopted the Arabic language along 
with the Muslim religion and thus contributed to an international “Arabic” 
culture that was distinct from an “Arabian” culture characteristic of the 
Arabian peninsula. This international Islamic “high-culture” had a tendency 
to transform color prejudice into an attitude that was subordinated to other 
values ... 9 

Islam modified racial prejudices. It did not eradicate it. “In Islam, as in 
Christianity, there has always been tension between its universalistic teach- 

ings and its application in concrete situations ... The kind of social relations 
that existed in specific times and places in Arabia, rather than abstract 
conceptions of color values, were the decisive determinants of concepts about 
black people and attitudes towards them.” 10 

Specific times and places rather than abstract conceptions . . . this is very 
well put and brings clarity to a situation that is sometimes irritatingly ambigu- 
ous. How can the Black rise to the top of the world in some places while in 
others, apparently dominated by the same general conception, he is paralyzed 
and stifled? There are zones of relative mobility (as in Spain, which Drake 
calls the periphery) and zones of relative rigidity (as in Persia and Turkey, 
which are seen as the central lands). Even in liberalized Spain, however, there 
was the problem of race (but was it simply race or the rivalry between power 
groups?). Rashidi and Brunson note the so-called 'bias of the Arabs’. “With 
the conquest and settlement of Spain” they contend “the Arabs developed 
patterns of racial bias towards the Berbers. This bias, sometimes blatant and at 
other times more subtle, manifested in various ways.” They cite dispropor- 
tionate tax assessments and poor land allotments but they give an even more 
disturbing example of racial bigotry. After founding the Almohad dynasty, 
the Berber ruler Abd-al-Mu’min’ offered the post of secretary in Granada to 
an Arab poet, Abu Ga’far. Because Ga’far had to work beside the Black 
Sultan’s son, he hesitated “because he felt the dark-skinned Berber was far 
below his own intellectual standards.” One can well understand how this 
asinine arrogance led to “hostile feelings, open rebellions, and shifting alli- 
ances between the Arab, Berber and Christian factions of the Iberian penin- 

This essay presents us also with a portrait of the Christian Moor, St. 
Maurice, and concludes with an introduction to the African presence in early 
Arabia, highlighting the African substratum of the ancient Arab world. 

2. Influences and Contributions 

A distinction should be drawn between the Classical Renaissance of Eu- 
rope, which mainly relates to its literature and art, and the Scientific Renais- 
sance, which began to bud and flower in the 12th and 13th centuries. Jose 
Pimienta-Bey deals primarily with the Moorish stimulus for the latter. He sets 
out to prove in his essay, and does so with a formidable body of evidence, that 
the foundation of much of medieval Western science and its academies was 
built up upon the transmissions, refinements and discoveries of the Arabs and 
the Moors. 

Moorish influence came primarily to the West by way of the Iberian 
peninsula (renamed al-Andalus by the Moors). Bey provides us with a de- 
tailed examination of Western Europe’s scholarly relations with Spain. Trans- 



Golden Age of the Moor Van Sertima 

lation, of course, played the major role in this diffusion of the sciences. The 
schools of translation were like the bridges between the Muslim and Christian 
scholars. Chief among these was the school of translators founded at Toledo 
by Alfonso X during the thirteenth century. 

Translations from Arabic (the medieval language of science) into Latin, the 
classical European language, had been going on since the tenth century. 
Centers of translation sprang up all over Christian Europe — Barcelona, 
Tarazona, Leon, Segovia, Pamplona, Toulouse, Beziers, Narbonne, Marseilles. 

Bologna, Salerno and Paris made extensive use of Moorish scientific 
treatises. The translations from the Arabic provided links between Spain, 
Portugal, France, Italy and England. Alphonso X promoted Moorish erudition 
at every opportunity. The first university of Christian Spain was founded at 
Valencia by Alfonso VIII in the 13th century and the teachers employed were 
the Muslims and the Jews. 

Nearly all the major universities in Europe sprung up around the same . time, 
beginning in the second half of the 12th century right up through the 13th, a 
span of about one hundred and fifty years, a period which coincides with the 
flowering of Moorish science and the establishment of centers in Europe to 
translate Moorish treatises from Arabic into Latin. In Italy we have Bologna, 
Padua, Naples, Rome; in France, Montpelier and Toulouse; in Portugal, 
Lisbon and Coimbra; in England, Oxford. 

Several of the Moorish works in mathematics, astronomy and medicine 
became standard texts at these universities. For example, Judwal, a Moorish 
work in astronomy, became a standard text at Oxford. Frederick II founded a 
university at Naples in 1224 and there he established a curriculum which 
emphasized Moorish scholarship. Under him all theological studies ceased at 
Italian universities and Moorish medicine and law became the major disci- 

A curious schizophrenia developed among the Catholics in relation to 
Moorish science and knowledge. On the one hand they were very much aware 
of the superior knowledge of the Moors and they made efforts to acquire that 
knowledge so that they would not be left too far behind. At the same time they 
strove desperately to keep it away from the common people and even, at 
times, to vilify it so that it would not become a challenge to Catholicism. They 
were afraid that the Enlightenment, the new ideas that this new knowledge 
would bring, could affect the populace. So that, even though they were given 
the keys to the inner sanctum, they kept the cage closed to the masses. 

Into Europe came the advances of an empire more immense than those of 
either Alexander the Great or Rome at its height. Rice was introduced into 
Europe by the Moors in the tenth century, cotton by the ninth. A Moorish 
botanist, Ibn Bassal, partitioned the land into ten different classes, according 
to particular characteristics, and taught the farmers ways of increasing the 
fertility of their plots. Surveys were done to locate sweet water below the 

earth. Widespread use was made of the waterwheel which the Moors had 
introduced into Spain. The Romans also knew of this but they had used it very 
little. The Moors also dug canals and channels to irrigate the farmlands and 
provide water for the thousands of houses and mosques and palaces and 
public baths. They not only increased the fertility of the soil with their new 
methods and tools and plants and manures but they also ushered in the 
sciences of food preservation and storage. They could store wheat for as long 
as one hundred years. Their methods of drying enabled such food as figs, 
plums, cherries and apples to remain edible for several years. 

They have left the voiceprint of their language on the things they intro- 
duced. A lot of Arabic words have entered general usage as a result of the 
Moorish invasion of Europe. Bey cites coffee, sugar, rice, cotton, lemon, 
syrup, soda, alcohol, alkali, cipher, algebra, arsenal, admiral, alcove, magazine. 
Let me add a few to this list, selected from my own work on pre-Columbian 
navigation and the transfer of plants: anchor (from angar) caravel (from 
caravos) tobacco (from dubbaq and a series of taba and tabgha words). 11 Also, 
the technical terms for the astrolabe (an astronomical device invented by the 
Moors) still retain their Arabic names. 

But technology in itself is not the only arbiter of civilization. It is important 
to note a benign African influence on the way Islam operated in Spain, 
particularly in relationship to women. Ibn Battuta, the Arab traveller and 
writer, first commented with astonishment on the level of freedom and 
equality of Muslim women in the African town of Walata. 12 It was the same in 
Moorish Spain. Unique among Islamic nations, women enjoyed more societal 
freedoms than in any part of the Islamic world. They moved freely in public 
and engaged in various gatherings. The practice of purdah was almost entirely 
ignored in Moorish Spain. Even a daughter of a 12th century Caliph had a 
total disregard for the veil. 

A question that has always haunted me is the reason for Europe’s Dark 
Age. Why did Europe fall into such darkness after all it had received from the 
Greeks who had taken so much from, and added what they could to, the 
Egyptian sciences? G.G.M. James, in The Stolen Legacy, answers this ques- 
tion. James had pointed out that the edicts of Theodosius in the 4th century 
closed down the temples of the Egyptian mysteries as well as the philosophi- 
cal schools of Greece. The emperor Justinian in 529 A.D. followed in the 
same path of Theodosius. Thus an intellectual darkness descended over 
Christian Europe and the entire Greco-Roman world. It lasted for centuries. 
But I feel James exaggerates when he claims that “the Greeks showed no 
creative powers and were unable to improve on the knowledge they received.” 13 
His point about their borrowings is well made but this kind of chauvinistic 
remark is quite unnecessary. There is no need to suggest the Greeks were 
dumb and could make no improvements whatever on what they learnt. If that 
were true, the influence of the Egyptians would have been negligible. 



Golden Age of the Moor Van Sertima 

But James makes an even more important point which I have not seen 
repeated elsewhere. It is the missing link in the drama of Moorish scientific 
ascendancy in the Middle Ages. Eurocentric historians had argued that the 
Arabs were merely transmitting the Greek heritage lost to Europe during its 
Dark Age. Even Arabs were made to believe that and to assume that they were 
standing on the shoulders of Greek giants. By the time they attacked Egypt, 
Europeans had long been in charge of that defeated country. The Arabs 
seemed to forget that their conquest of Egypt had been made easy by the 
resentment of the Egyptians against their Byzantine overlords. We know far 
more today about the enormous debt Greek science owes to Egypt (see my 
essay “The Egyptian Precursor” in this issue). But what was little suspected 
was that Greece was not the only conduit of Egyptian scientific genius to the 
Arab world. James provides evidence that there were Egyptians fleeing their 
country in large numbers during the Persian, Greek and Roman invasions, 
fleeing not only to the desert and mountain regions but also to adjacent lands 
in Africa — Arabia and Asia Minor, where, “they lived and secretly developed 
the teachings which belonged to their Mystery System. In the eighth century 
A.D. the Moors of North Africa invaded Spain and took with them the 
Egyptian culture which they had preserved. Knowledge in the ancient days 
was centralized, that is, it belonged to a common parent and system — the 
Wisdom System or Mysteries of Egypt, which the Greek used to call Sophia.” 

Whatever we may say of these great scientific advances, there is something 
that we cannot gloss over and which unfortunately we must mention in our 
uncompromising quest for the truth of history. Some despots and merchants 
did trade in slaves during part of the Moorish occupation of al-Andalus. Most 
of these, before the European slave trade were European slaves. It has been 
said that slavery among the Muslims and slavery among the Catholics had 
important differences. Bey quotes Joseph O’Callahan who, in The History of 
Medieval Spain , makes it clear that “owners did not possess the power of life 
and death over them nor could they inflict excessive punishment. Slaves had 
rights and they could actually seek assistance if they were exceedingly 
maltreated.” On this matter Bey comments “any student of American history 
knows that this was far from the case regarding the British and United States 
system of enslavement. The enslaved African was a non-human legally 
designated as ‘property’.” 

Slavery, regardless of these qualifications, can never be condoned or 
forgiven. But it was not central to their system: it was marginal. I think it 
should also be pointed out, contrary to myths about the Muslims, that they did 
not force their religion down the throats of the Christians. John Jackson, in an 
informative chapter on the Moors, in his book Introduction to African Civili- 
zation , 14 shows us how Christian, Jew and Muslim were treated with equal 
respect during the dynasty of the Ummayads. We have been given no evi- 
dence that this changed dramatically in later Muslim dynasties. The slave 

trade in this time was not a state institution. It was like the lucrative drug 
enterprise of today — a large but lawless thing, sometimes indulged in by bad 
rulers but not a keystone of the system, as it was later to become in the Euro- 
Christian world. The Moors, let it be said, did not suppress the languages of 
the people of Al-Andalus, they did not outlaw their sacred customs, they did 
not turn Iberia into a sweat-shop, its fertile lands a mere source of raw 
materials for the Muslim international elite. They did not destroy their legal 
system, rob them of their political rights, deny them their claim to humanity. 
The one thing they did insist on, was a say in the election of the Catholic 
bishops since the rival power of the church could undermine Muslim power 
and authority. 

* * * 

The world changed dramatically in 1492, not only because Columbus 
stumbled in the direction of the Americas, using the magnet of a myth to draw 
millions behind him, but because that was the very year the Moors were 
defeated. It is not an accident that it is Spain and Portugal who spearheaded 
the movement in this direction. It was on Jan. 2, 1492 that the African leader, 
Abu AMi-Llah, otherwise known as Boabdil, surrendered to the Spanish. 

Jan Carew compares the illiteracy of the Christian Europeans to the learn- 
ing and erudition of the Moors of that time. The comparison is so startling, his 
comment is worth quoting. 

“At a time when the most insignificant provinces of Moorish Spain con- 
tained libraries running into thousands of volumes, the cathedrals, monaster- 
ies and palaces of Leon, under Christian rule, numbered books only by the 
dozen. The paltry number of texts the Christians did possess were almost all 
devotional or liturgical.” 

The narrowness of vision this produced among leaders of the church and 
state was to have catastrophic effects. It led to the massive burning of African 
and Arab books under the order of Cardinal Ximenes de Cisneros. It inspired 
a similar bonfire of the books of native Americans. Bishop de Landa exhorted 
his followers in the Yucatan “Burn them all — they are works of the devil.” 

The destruction of the Moorish libraries was particularly vicious because it 
was not only inspired by religious narrowness and bigotry. Hatred of the dark 
invaders kindled the bonfires. The Church at that time too saw most of this 
foreign learning as something evil, even demonic. The number system that we 
use today, for example, brought in by the Moors from India, was seen as late 
as the 17th century in some parts of Europe as signs of the devil. It became a 
religious mission for men like Ximenes and his successors to erase from 
history all memory of the Moors. Ximenes even induced the Spanish sover- 
eigns to outlaw the public baths, making cleanliness antithetical to godliness. 
Fortunately for the scientific renaissance, key Moorish works had already 
been translated and circulated, even smuggled secretly into the academies, 
significant seminal inventions introduced and established before these barbaric 
attempts at an intellectual holocaust. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Beaten into surrender, forced by the million to seek refuge back into Africa 
and Arabia, some of the Moors still held their ground. An important rebellion 
by the Moors is cited by Carew in 1568 led by MaulvMM- Allah Mohammad 
ibn Umayya. This was such a serious rebellion that Philip II of Spain had to 
call on Don Juan of Portugal to put it down. 

Carew deals with the subtle evasions by Europeans who refuse to admit 
that the Almoravids (1056-1147) were Africans. “They continue to describe 
them variously as: ‘descended from the Sanhaja tribes of the Sahara’ or ‘the 
desert Sanhaja from whom the Almoravids had first drawn support’ suggest- 
ing the Almoravids, themselves, were of a different race and that they got the 
Sanhaja to help in their campaign; or ‘the African troops, the Sanhaja’ ... 

While he notes that the Arabs later developed a myopic vision of history, 
ignoring the African contribution, he praises the early Muslim open- 
mindedness. For, after all, Islam went beyond the Arab and, in its early 
revolutionary phase, its eagerness to embrace the universe of man’s imaginings 
was extraordinary. “Unlike Christian theologians who forbad scholars from 
considering ideas outside of the prescribed ecclesiastical canons of the day, 
Islam accommodated new ideas with grace and a civilized tolerance.” Let me 
quote from him again since he highlights the advantages of this kind of 
dynamic openness very well: 

“Muslim scholars absorbed and synthesized and expanded upon the knowl- 
edge of the Ethiopians and Egyptians, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the 
Chinese and the Indians. A new and momentous leap forward in the theoreti- 
cal and applied sciences evidenced itself in Moorish mathematics, medicine, 
astronomy, navigation and new concepts of world geography and philosophy 
... The popularity of Moorish scholarship was such that for centuries Arabic 
was commonly accepted as the language of scholars from Europe, Asia and 
Africa ...” 

His essay is particularly illuminating when it comes to the discussion of 
agriculture. The Moors transformed the Iberian peninsular in this respect. 
They were able to create a harmony in the rhythms of the life in the city and in 
the countryside. They not only brought advanced drainage and irrigation 
systems, reservoirs, aqueducts, sophisticated storage facilities and efficient 
marketing, transportation and trading networks but they brought the beauty 
and freshness of the countryside into the cities — fantastic gardens, parks, lush 
inner courtyards and a constant supply of pure water. They also brought a 
variety of new crops like cereals, beans and peas of various types, olives, 
almonds and vines — rich new sources of protein. Fruits unknown to Europe 
tumbled into the market — oranges, pomegranates, bananas, coconuts, maize 
and rice. They brought the art of dry farming, as well, to the high bleak plains 
and they introduced the water-wheel (as I mentioned earlier) an invaluable 
source of energy for irrigation and the grinding of grain. 

Van Sertima 

The impact of the Moors upon European literature and upon the work of 
great writers like Cervantes and Shakespeare, is also rarely discussed. Carew 
points out that Spain’s greatest literary figure, Cervantes, was for several 
years prisoner of a Moorish leader in North Africa. The tales of knight 
errantry and courtly love, which obsess Cervantes’ hero, Don Quixote, were 
filtered through centuries of the Moorish/Islamic experience. There were 
Moorish brotherhoods that may be described as orders of knights. Their 
imprint on European heraldry, on shields and emblems of chivalry, is dealt 
with elsewhere in this work. 

Now Shakespeare, though he never travelled, had many merchant friends 
from whom he could milk information about Morocco and the Moors. He also 
knew Queen Elizabeth’s ambassador to Morocco and the Moroccan ambas- 
sador to London. Shakespeare also, I should point out, read Leo Africanus’ 
Geographical Histone of Africa, and quotes actual sentences from this in his 
play on Othello, the Moor. 15 He wrote an ode to his Moorish mistress, Lucy 
Morgan of Clerkenwell, 16 and seems to have taken a greater interest in the 
black figure than any other English dramatist of consequence. Carew touches 
on his treatment of these, from the noble Moor, Othello, to the caricature of 
the black slave, Caliban, round whom the racist prejudices of Elizabethan 
England are crystallized, to the dark-complexioned prince of Morocco, whose 
color is cancelled out (in his rivalry with the pink prince of Aragon for the 
hand of Portia) by what Shakespeare sees as the grand equaliser— wealth and 

The image of the Moor in European literature, however, an occasional 
though powerfully evocative figure in the plays, novels and canvases of major 
European writers and painters, seems rather minimal in its effect on literary or 
artistic structure and form. Not so in the matter of music. The influence of 
African and Arab musical instruments, poetry and song, even musical theory, 
on the melodies and rhythms of Spain, shine through the lies and evasions of 
musicologists to this day. Yusef Ali, drawing upon a comprehensive body of 
work on this subject, tries to set the record straight. 

A major misconception about African music is that it has always been 
separable from what became the Arab-speaking countries of the Mahgrib — 
Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and the Sudan. The tendency of most people, even 
scholars who should know better, to confuse ancient and modem social and 
ethnic reality, has led to serious misunderstandings about racial and cultural 
origins of the peoples of North Africa as compared with Africans in other 
parts of the continent. The Mahgrib is seen as “a thin finger of Islamic culture 
that stretches from Egypt to the Atlantic” and what it was before the advent of 
Islam or the European slave trade is ignored or forgotten. We shall not attempt 
to prove here, since we have done so definitively in other volumes, that Egypt, 
in the classical dynasties at least, was predominantly African, but what is 



Golden Age of the Moor Van Sertima 

seldom recognized is the African substratum of ancient Egyptian music. This 
music was to spread and influence both the eastern and western world. It 
haunted and startled the Arab, even as he was startled by the pyramids and 
sphinxes and colossal monoliths, which in his desert habitat he had never 
seen. Experiments in ancient Egypt with a music notation system and the 
establishment of schools of music that not only taught vocal and instrumental 
performance but also theory and chironomy (the art of notation by means of 
gesture) made Egypt the first civilization to do so. 

Egyptians, even as late as Greek times, were still possessors of canted 
knowledge in both music practice and theory. Thus, much that we credit to 
Pythagoras and the Greek music theorists have deeper roots in Alexandria and 
the Nile Valley. In addition, the legacy of ancient Egypt is found in the 
shapes, tunings and playing styles of such folk instruments as the argul 
double-clarinets, the genibri of North Africa, the many endblown flutes of the 
near East, the hlam of the Wolof and the sistrum of the Ethiopian Copts. 

Ali devotes a long section to acquaint his readers with the spread of the 
Arabic language east, north and west across Africa. What he is trying to say 
(and the Encyclopedia Britannica adopts the same attitude towards this prob- 
lem) is that since any Arabic-speaking African would be referred to as an 
Arab, one can be misled into making clear-cut distinctions between the “Afro- 
Semitic” or “Euro-Asiastic” Arabian and the Arabic-speaking African since 
there are so many instances where such distinctions would either be blurred or 
misleading. He thereby avoids the racial problem to some extent by seeing the 
“Arab” moreso as a linguistic and cultural grouping rather than someone with 
a clear-cut racial identity. This approach has the value of freeing him to 
discuss the innovation and impact of the alien invaders on Andalusian music 
without having always to distinguish the fair-skinned Arabian (say) from the 
dark-skinned Berber of the medieval period. It is an approach, however, that 
has its dangers since the stage may be spotlighted with singers and players 
who are sometimes marginal in an examination of the African contribution to 
the music of the world. 

Music performed by the Berbers of Morocco, he demonstrates, is tradition- 
ally African. The black Gnawa (a community or tribe of griots or storytellers) 
perform a large part of the traditional music. They are also found in Tunisia 
and among the Wolof of Gambia. Ali points to a mixture of styles (as among 
the Wolof) and emphasizes that this synthesis, reflecting both a Muslim and a 
pre-Islamic African element, may be found throughout the fringes of the 

He cites the work of an important African musicologist Kebede who asserts 
that an indigenous and truly African style of music cuts across Africa north to 
south and east to west. Kebede says that Egyptian civilization is the cradle of 
music and that even the Greeks refer to Egypt as the source of their 

musicopedagogic ideas. Ancient Egyptian music is preserved today in the 
music found in the Coptic churches and it is also deeply rooted in the music 
characterized simply as Arabic. 

The controversy over the African root of the Berbers which runs through 
the essays of Reynolds, Chandler and Bey flares afresh in the citations of Ali. 
Graeme tells us that the music of the Berbers has nothing whatever to do with 
Arab influence but represents an ancient African style. 

What is remarkable and brings us back once again to brood upon the 
inspirations of Egypt is that the Arabs came there with their poetry but 
nothing formally set to music. They did not yet have a classical form of music 
that they could call their own. There is no evidence of musical treatises in 
Arabic, Ali informs us, until the eighth century. This is after their invasion 
and their study of Egyptiah music practice and theory, as translated and 
transmitted by the Greeks. Virtually all European scholars, however, claim a 
Persian origin of Arab music even though they know (or at least should know) 
that the first Persian musical treatise dates from the twelfth century, about 400 
years later. 

The most significant of the Moorish musicians was Ziryab. He arrived in 
Spain in 822. He was known as Ziryab (the Blackbird) a name given to him 
because of his black complexion, his eloquence and the melodious sweetness 
of his voice. 

Ziryab made not just an impact on the music of Spain, especially in the 
development of the lute but he became the cornerstone of Spanish musical art. 
In Cordova he founded the first conservatory of music. He also invented a 
plectrum made of eagle quill instead of the wooden one that had been used 
before. He was deeply versed in every branch of art and he was gifted with 
such a remarkable memory that he knew by heart upwards of one thousand 
songs with their appropriate airs. 

Before Ziryab the lute was composed of only four strings which may be 
likened to the four elementary principles of the body. They expressed the four 
natural sounds. He added another red string and placed it in the middle which 
considerably improved the sound and made it more harmonious. The theory 
of humours which the Egyptians introduced into medicine and which had 
been picked up by the Greeks (and, through their translations, by the Arabs) 
was now transferred to music. TTie object of music was to restore the equilib- 
rium of the soul in the same way that medicine was supposed to restore the 
equilibrium of the body humors. 

Ziryab became the most fashionable arbiter of taste in the ninth century. He 
affected the way the upper class of Andalusia ate at table. He was the first to 
introduce crystal tableware. He changed hairstyles. He introduced new cus- 
toms in perfumes and deodorants, in the manner of washing clothes, in 
cooking. He brought in new dishes, some named after him. He introduced 
new fashions in dress, a greater range of colors and textures of garments to 



Golden Age of the Moor Van Sertima 

suit the shift and change in seasons. He revolutionized the style of serving and 
eating food. Food was no longer served in one mass as was the general case in 
al-Andalus before him. Following his lead, it was broken down into separate 
courses, beginning with soups and ending with desserts. 

Apart from musical composition, instrument-making achieved a high state 
of development in Moorish Spain. Some of the new instruments include the 
khayal, the carrizo (reed) the lute, the rata, the rabel or rebec, the kanun 
(harp), the munis, the quenira (a type of zither) the quitar, the zolami (oboe) 
the shokra, and the nura (flutes). Other wind-instruments mentioned are the 
pastoral flute, the Moorish pipes, two kinds of flagealet and the bagpipes. The 
percussion instruments include the bambrel, the tambourine, castanets, brass 
rattles, macara and atambor. 

Even when the Moors had been defeated and Christians had reconquered 
the territory once occupied by these people the music was imitated by a great 
number of Christian Europeans and the Christian kings still kept Moorish 
musicians in their employ even as had the Moorish kings before them. 

Ali refers to a study of songs in the Concionero de Palacio, which contains 
the instrumental and vocal compositions of the Moors who were the profes- 
sional musicians at Alfonso X’s court. Of the hundreds of songs examined, in 
this work and the Cantigas of Santa Maria, the vast majority fit the pattern of 
the Andalusian metric system and are in the zajal form the Moors created in 
Andalusia towards the end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth century. 
Their influence on musical instruments in Europe was considerable. They 
were the first to introduce a scientific description of musical instruments and 
possessed the only didactic instrumental methods in music during the Middle 
Ages. While most commentators agree with this, they insist that their influ- 
ence was confined to that category and that they contributed nothing to 
musical theory. The historian of music, George Henry Farmer, points out, 
however, that since there was such an advanced state of instrumental music it 
would be difficult to deny that some practical theory would have also been 
passed along. Indeed, says Farmer, “I believe, with others, that the major 
mood due directly to the accordatura and fretting of the Arabian lute was 
among the new musical ideas introduced in this way. He also cites evidence 
for the transmission by the Moors of practical theory. 

• • • 

Mamadou Chinyelu deals with the pivotal role of Africans in the birth of 
the Islamic faith and shows that they figure not only in the Prophet 
Mohammed’s lineage but in his upbringing and development. 

St Clair Drake points out and with supportive evidence that Mohammed 
himself was described as being of a red color. However, the ten sons of Abd 
al-Muttalib, Mohammed’s grandfather, were all, according to D.S. Margoliouth, 
“men of massive build and of dark colour.” This would not make Arabs see 
Mohammed as “a black man” in the popular American sense. We must 

remember that we are dealing here with polygamous families and the sons of 
al-Mutallib were probably not only of different wives of different races but 
the particular son, who fathered Mohammed, may also have married women 
of different races. This, therefore, would not automatically make Mohammed 
“black” or Africoid. Phenotypically, at least, he does not appear in that light to 
the Arabs. The way color prejudice had to be dealt with again and again with 
stem sermons by the Prophet, makes it clear that the majority of his followers 
could not have seen him as such. A stigmata was still attached to people with 
classically “Negroid” features, St Clair Drake tells us. His work is particularly 
informative on this delicate point. 

Black Africans, however, figure very prominently in Mohammed’s life. 
Apart from the reputed African ancestry of his grandfather, Chinyelu points 
out that he was reared by an African woman, Barakat, when his mother died. 
He pleaded with his family to raise money to free the African slave, Bilal, who 
not only became a pillar of the faith but his closest and most honored friend 
unto his death. One of his wives — May — was an African. His adopted son — 
Zayd bin Harith — destined to become a great general, was also an African. 
Mohammed held Africa in such mystical reverence that when his early 
followers were fleeing persecution in Arabia he advised them to seek asylum 
in Africa, for “yonder lieth a land of righteousness.” 

Africans were pivotal also in the spread of Islam. The invasion of Spain in 
the eighth century and the survival of the Muslim dynasties in the eleventh 
owe a great deal to African military prowess and leadership. Chinyelu celebrates 
the military exploits of Tarik (who conquered Spain in 711 A.D.) of Yusuf Ibn 
Tashifin , leader of the Almoravides, who routed Alphonso VPs army in 1086 
(15,000 Africans facing 70,000 Europeans) assuming leadership of Muslim 
Spain in 1091, and of Yakub al-Mansur who conquered Spain and Portugal on 
two separate occasions to become the most powerful ruler in the world. Such 
was the respect these leaders inspired in the hearts of their enemies, that royal 
crests and coats-of-arms in Europe were emblazoned with Moorish heads. 

To the influence of Moorish science on Europe we finally turn, for it is in 
this field that the impact of the Moors is least known and most felt. Wayne 
Chandler points to advances in mathematics, the solving of quadratic equa- 
tions and the development of new concepts of trigonometry. He informs us 
that Moorish chemistry refined upon gunpowder invention in China and thus 
introduced the first shooting mechanisms, known as firesticks. They were 
also known for their skill in medicine. For seven centuries the medical schools 
in Europe owed everything they knew to Moorish research. Vivisection as 
well as dissection of dead bodies was practiced in their anatomical schools 
and women as well as men were trained to perform delicate surgical opera- 
tions. They were the first to trace “the curvilinear path of rays of light through 
air.” This discovery in about 1100 AD is a prerequisite to the design of 
corrective eyeglasses. Students and teachers should read this essay also for its 



Golden Age of the Moor Van Sertima 

outline of main events in the dynasties, which no other writer in this volume 
attempts except John Jackson. Jackson’s single-stranded definition of the 
Moor, however, does not begin to address the complexities of the problem. 

Beatrice Lumpkin and Siham Zitler focus upon the work of mathemati- 
cians in Africa during the Muslim empire. Most of this work was done at the 
Dar-el-Hikma, the House of Wisdom, founded in Cairo in 1005 AD. These 
scientists, through the use of Arabic as the common language of learning, 
were able to communicate with their colleagues over vast stretches of territory 
under Muslim influence, from Spain and Italy on the West across Africa and 
Asia, to China on the East. They promoted the rapid progress of technology in 
this period. Even before the House of Wisdom was established we have 
evidence of complex machines developed outside of Europe — self-operating 
valves, timing mechanisms and delays, worm and pinion gears, operated 
hydraulically, even crankshafts. The first steam engine had already appeared 
in Africa, built by Heron in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Also, the water 
clock and the thermometer. Europe lagged behind in the technological race 
and later profited immensely from these innovations. 

Edward Scobie deals with these aspects of Moorish science that made the 
global expansion of Portugal possible. Why did the British, French, Dutch 
and Italians who owned the ships not undertake this journey? Since their 
leaders also possessed the necessary vision for such an enterprise, why didn’t 
they take the lead? The Portuguese jumped ahead because they drew upon 
everything they could from the Moors. The geographical lore (for the Mus- 
lims travelled the length and breadth of the then known world and wrote the 
most meticulous travel accounts (Ibn Battuta and Ibn Hawkel, for example). 
All the advances in navigation — lateen sails, astrolabes and nautical com- 
passes, astronomical tables, tubes, to the extremities of which ocular and 
object diopters were attached, the measurement of time by pendulum oscilla- 
tions, the finest maps. Also, gunpowder and artillery (the Moors had not only 
made the firestick, as mentioned above, but even cannon forged from wrought 

Prince Henry the Navigator (born 1394) gets all the credit for the impetus 
towards Portugal’s expansion as if this was a result of his creative genius. The 
depletion of precious metals in Europe due to the demands of foreign trade, 
the costly wars that were taking place, leading to even further shortages, 
pushed Europe to turn to Africa as an untapped source. But it was Prince 
Henry who channeled both this need and the science of the Moors to spear- 
head European expansion. As Professor Hamilton puts it “it was both the lore 
and the lure of Africa.” 

Why did the perception of the Moor change? Why was there no doubt 
before 1492 that one was dealing with a mix of racial types speaking Arabic, 

among whom the Black African was at times a dominant figure, whereas in 
1992 it would seem like racial chauvinism to suggest that Africans played a 
major role in the occupation and enlightenment of a critical part of Europe? 

The crash of Moorish power in the middle of the thirteenth century (al- 
though this lingered on in enclaves like Granada until 1492) was to make a 
tremendous difference. It is not an accident that the year Columbus sailed was 
the same year the African generals in Granada surrendered to Ferdinand and 
Isabella. Not only did the economic and political fortune of Africa fall 
dramatically after that but so did the very image and perception in which its 
people were held. It was only a matter of time before it would be seen in all 
lands and in all phases of history as unrelated to significant cultural and 
scientific development. Wherever it could be shown that the African had 
made early and significant advances, or had influenced other civilizations, be 
it in North Africa, Southern Europe or Egypt, it would be seen as a direct 
result of some Caucasoid minority in their midst or the infusion of European 
blood. This led European historians to assume that there had to be a Caucasoid 
origin of, (or a Caucasoid class or caste above) such extraordinary people as 
the Moors. 

• • • 

Egypt* the depository of traditions of incalculable antiquity , had submitted, 
after a brief and determined struggle, to the common fate of nations, and the 
banners of Islam floated in triumph from the towers of Alexandria and 
Memphis. It was with a feeling of awe and wonder that the fierce, untutored 
Arab gazed upon the monuments of this strange and to him, enchanted land. 
Before him were the pyramids, rising in massive grandeur upon the girders of 
the desert: the stupendous temples: the mural paintings, whose brilliant 
coloring was unimpaired after the lapse of fifty centuries: the group of 
ponderous sphinxes imposing even in their mutilation: the speaking statues, 
which facing the East, with the first ray of light saluted the coming day: the 
obelisks, sculptured upon shaft and pedestal with the eternal records of long 
extinguished dynasties: the vast subterranean tombs, whose every sarcopha- 
gus was a gigantic monolith: and the effigies of the old Egyptian kings, 
personifications of dignity and power, holding in their hands the symbols of 
time and eternity . . . 

The influence produced by the sight of these marvels on the destiny of the 
simple Arab , whose horizon had hitherto been defined by the shifting sands 
and quivering vapors of the desert, by whom the grandeur and symmetry of 
architectural design was undreamt of, was incalculable ... 

History of the Moorish Empire in Europe 
(S.P. Scott, 1904) 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Professor Scott may have exaggerated the simplicity of the desert-tribes 
who overwhelmed Egypt in the seventh century A.D. but, with respect to the 
impact of Egyptian science on the later Muslim invaders, the vaulted tone of 
the above passage carries not the slightest hint of exaggeration. The irony is 
that the Muslim invaders came upon inscriptions and papyri that they could 
not read. They were therefore to draw upon the vast body of ancient science 
second-hand, through the translations of the Greeks, the students rather than 
the teachers. Thus even they, in spite of their later refinements and advances, 
subscribed to the notion that they had merely built upon an original European 
base and that their real contribution to the scientific renaissance in Europe 
was largely to preserve and transmit the lost secrets of a Hellenistic heritage. 

This notion pervades even the latest works done on the science of the 
Muslim peoples. Rom Landau, in his recent book — The Arab Heritage of 
Western Civilization — repeats this like a compulsive chant in every chapter. 
“While Europe lost the Greek legacy” he claims “the Arabs discovered it.” 17 
Again ... “The Arab assimilation of the Greek treasure forms one of the most 
fascinating chapters in the history of man’s quest for knowledge.” Two pages 
later he is still chanting the same tune: “They gradually erected on Greek 
foundations an intellectual edifice of their own ... No field of Greek learning, 
from philosophy to math, medicine and botany, was neglected.” 

Since most modern Egyptians represent a dramatic departure, both racially 
and culturally, from the Egyptians of the dynastic era and have been taught, 
by both British and French imperial powers, to follow the Eurocentric ap- 
proach in these matters, we will find this dismissive attitude towards the 
science of ancient Egypt even in the most devout, the most learned of Muslim 
scholars. Such is the case of Seyd Hossein Nasr, author of the most recent 
encyclopedic work on the science of the Muslims. 18 It exudes with a spirit of 
superiority over the so-called materialistic vision of the European, but in a 
typically schizophrenic vein, it rarely ever mentions pre-Islamic Egypt as 
having a scientific tradition. It is the same Eurocentric chant in spite of his 
chauvinism. Praise be to Allah for Aristotle and Plato, Pythagoras, Euclid, 
Hippocrates and Galen. We have gone beyond this, sure, but before these 
Greek spirits there is nothing but the womb of space. 

That is why I have found it necessary to outline important aspects of 
Egyptian science as it bears not only upon the Greek but upon the later 
invaders of Egypt, (see my chapter “The Egyptian Precursor to Greek and 
“Arab” Science”) which illustrates, in a courtroom judgement, the case against 
the main Greek plagiarists, Archimedes and Pythagoras. A later version will 
provide supplements to this indictment. It is important that readers be made 
aware of this African background since it is difficult, if not impossible, to 
distinguish at all times African Muslims from other Muslim scientists. What 
we can say about Moorish science is that it was not European in its seminal 

Van Sertima 

inspiration and only minimally affected by Europeans before 1492. It was a 
multi-cultural tradition, involving strong African and “Arabian” elements but 
also elements of the Hindu (the number system, for example) and the Chinese 
(gunpowder technology). Science ideally, is beyond racial classification. It is 
neither Black nor White, African nor European. What one man invents 
becomes the common property and benefit of the whole human race. But 
when there is a perceived attempt, conscious and unconscious, persevered in 
relentlessly over the centuries, to minimize or exclude the contribution of 
people of a certain race, then an emphasis upon those invisible people in 
history becomes a duty, a mission, a necessary corrective. It is not that we 
seek to denigrate the achievements of the Greek nor to subtract one iota from 
the contribution so loosely labelled as “Arab” but to point out that there are 
seminal antecedents to the dreek that are too critical and significant to be 
ignored, and that both an ancient and contemporary African element mixes 
and melts in the crucible that became the science of the Moors. 


1. Ibn-l-Khattib al-Makkary, The Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain, trans. by 
Pascual de Gayangos , London, W.H. Allen & Co. 1840, and reprinted New York, 
Johnson Reprint, 1964. 

2. Al-Makkary, ibid. 

3. Florian de Ocampo, Cronica General, Medina del Campo, 1553. For this 
reference, see al-Makkary. 

4. Journal of the Epigraphic Society, Vol 7, No. 171, April 1979. 

5. J.A. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color Line, New York, 1952. 

6. Diop’s paper was presented to me in three sections. The first dealt with the 
origins of man: “Africa: Cradle of Humanity”, the middle section with the eighth- 
century invasion of the Iberian peninsula by the “Arab” (Neither Diop nor the Arabs 
use the word “Moor”) the third section with “Africa’s Contribution to World Civili- 
zation: The Exact Sciences.” I omitted the middle section and subsequently received 
Diop’s approval for this deletion, prior to the final publication of the papers under my 

7. St. Clair Drake, Black Folk, Here and There, Vol 2, p. 98. Readers are advised 
to consult the chapter “The Black Experience in the Muslim World”, pp. 77-184, 
which is probably the most honest, serious, and balanced study of racial attitudes and 
relationships within the Muslim World. 

8. Ibid., p. 116. 

9. Ibid., p. 101. 

10. Ibid, p. 86. 

11. Ivan Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus, Random House, New York, 
1976, see chap. 11 for origin of tobacco words and p. 232 for origin of the word 

12. Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354 (trans. and selected) 
M.A.R, Gibb, New York, Augustus Kelley, 1969. 

13. George G.M. James, The Stolen Legacy, The African Publication Society, 
London, 1972. 



Golden Age of the Moor Van Sertima 

14. John Jackson, see “Africa and the Civilising of Europe: The Empire of the 
Moors” in Introduction to African Civilization, Citadel Press, Secaucus, N.J. 1974. 

15. Rosalind Johnson, “African Presence in Shakespearean drama” in African 
Presence in Early Europe (ed. Ivan Van Sertima) Journal of African Civilizations, 
1985, p.276-287. 

16. Edward Scobie, “African Women in Early Europe” in African Presence in 
Early Europe, (ed. Ivan Van Sertima) Journal of African Civilizations, 1985, p. 207. 

17. Rom Landau, The Arab Heritage of Western Civilization, Arab Information 
Center, New York, 1962. 

18. H. Seyyed Nasr, Islamic Science. An Illustrated Study. London and Kent, 
U.K. World of Islam Publishing Co. 1976. Photos by Roland Michaud. 


Rebuttal to Letter of Dana Reynolds on the Tamahu 
by Wayne B. Chandler 

In reviewing the summary of Dana Reynolds’ section on what constitutes a 
Berber, several factors come to mind. 

First, in addressing her statements pertaining to Berbers, I find it necessary 
to explain what seems to me to be the obvious. There is no question that there 
are groups of black Berbers in the northern countries of Africa but my task 
was to identify and trace the .origin of a particular group or segment of this 
Berber population, which came to be known as the “Tawny Moor.” That these 
so-called ‘white’ Moors existed is irrefutable, for there are not only litanies of 
written documentation but scores of painted renditions of these Berbers to 
remind us of their presence in the Islamic conquest and construction of North 
Africa and Spain. Thus it is not by my design that we are able to trace these 
groups through the chronicles of the Arabs, Romans, Garamantes, 
Carthagenians, and Egyptians. For Reynolds to refute such obvious data is 
uncharacteristic of her high degree of scholarship. 

Using anthropology, etymology, and quoted comments from the Egyptians 
themselves, we have no trouble in tracing the “Tawny Moor” or white Berber 
to the group known as the Libyan and from the Libyan to “Tamahu.” 

Beside the historical accounts of these ‘whites’, which is demonstrated on 
the famed palate of Narmer-Menes (if we are taking into consideration visual 
evidence), and the statuary of Rehotep and consort Nofret, we have the 
written testimony of these ‘white’ Libyans on the Wady-Magharah which 
contains several memorials to the ancient kings of Egypt. The Wady-Magharah 
states that in the Sixth Dynasty, “Pepi I. was the conqueror of the Tamahu 
... the foreign people who in his time dwelt in the valley of caverns 
[cavemen].” This is testimony from the horse’s mouth. Who are we to refute 
it? A pictorial representation of four races of men is found on the tomb of Seti 
I. Of these four races, each a different color, we find men arranged in groups 
of four each. One of these is the European and is depicted as white as snow 
with the designated inscription “Tamahu.” 

Reynolds quotes Behrens and Arkell stating that [in the Tamahu] they 
identify a C-group culture which was “tall, slender, and obviously black ...” 
What makes this so obvious and who is stating this, Behrens and Arkell, 
Reynolds, or a third party whom Reynolds is quoting? Her statement suggests 
she is quoting someone else who is quoting these sources and that they have 
not been thorough in their research. Etymology in this case is unwavering and 
inflexible, and states most assuredly that the Egyptian word Tamahu means 
“the white people”! ! ! In regard to Reynolds’ comments on the Tehenou, it has 


Golden Age of the Moor 

been acknowledged by Egyptologists and historians alike who have correctly 
translated the hieroglyphs that this group was of the black race. Diop writing 
in 1955 states, “The Tehenu or black Lebou was probably the ancestor of the 
modem Lebou ... These Blacks preceded the Temehou or white Libyans in 
that region of the western Delta. The existence of the first black inhabitant, the 
Tehenu, made it possible to create confusion over the term “brown Libyan 

As historians, it is our responsibility to convey an accurate account of what 
has transpired in our past. We must at all costs refrain from the same tactics 
employed against us by the European historian for, as we have seen, this 
approach leaves a void which is easily filled with the truth, making it easy to 
refute all lies and scholarship which is based on deception. 

That among the predominant black types, there was also an Euro-Asiatic 
species of man in Egypt from a very early historical period is fact. That they in 
later times came to be known as Libyans is also fact. That these Libyans 
amalgamated with the indigenous blacks of the area which eventually produced 
what came to called the “Tawny or white Moor” is also irrefutable. Reynolds 
cannot afford to misrepresent the historical ledger because she wants to paint 
the entire population of Africa as black when there is substantial evidence to 
the contrary. 

I have no doubt that, in most cases, Dana Reynolds 7 approach to history is 
impeccable but in this matter I find an oversight in her catagorizing of the 
Tamahu and their relationship to the Berbers. I do agree, however, with her 
assessment of the black Libyans and the historical role they have played 
during and after the Arab conquest. 


by James E. Brunson and Runoko Rashidi 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary , the Moors, as early as the 
Middle Ages and as late as the seventeenth century, were “commonly sup- 
posed to be black or very swarthy, and hence the word is often used for 
Negro.” There is considerable difficulty, however, in determining the ethnicity 
of the early Moors through terminology alone. Indeed, there are several terms 
that have been used to identify the Moors. Arabic texts, for example, rarely 
used the word Moor, and instead applied the term Berber (a word thought by 
some to be pejorative) to the early non-Arab peoples of northwest Africa. And 
when not employing that term, they utilized the clan names of the Berbers 
themselves. In addition, early Christian sources often applied the term Saracen 
indiscriminately to Muslim populations in general, including the Moors. 

The Term Moor 

Although scholars generally agree that the word Moor is derived from Mauri, 
there are profound disagreements on what the word originally meant and how 
it was applied. Philip K. Hitti contends that the term Moor has a geographic 
designation meaning Western. Hitti, the author of the comprehensive History 
of the Arabs, writes that: 

The Romans called Western Africa Mauretania and its inhabitants Mauri 
(presumably of Phoenician origin meaning ‘western’), whence [the] 
Spanish Moro, [and the] English Moor. The Berbers, therefore, were the 
Moors proper, but the term was conventionally applied to all Moslems of 
Spain and north-western Africa . 1 

Using Greek and Roman sources, Frank M. Snowden has pointed out that 
the Mauri (a northwest African people whose color received frequent notice) 
were described as nigri (black) and adusti (scorched). 2 The Roman dramatist 
Platus (254-184 B.C.) maintained that the Latin word Maurus was a synonym 
for Niger. In contrasting the Moors of the sixth century with another racial 
group in North Africa, Procopius (ca. 550) wrote that they were “not black- 
skinned like the Moors.” 3 Isidore, a Catholic scholar and the Archbishop of 
Seville (587-636) wrote that the word Maurus meant black. 

With the sudden eruption of the Arabs, during the middle of the seventh 
century, Mauri disappears for a time from the historical records. It reemerges, 

Dedicated to Joel Augustus Rogers 

28 Golden Age of the Moor 

however, in medieval literature. For example, in a Middle English romance 
called Kyng Alisaunder (ca. 1175), the conqueror Darius has among his troops 
a contingent of soldiers led by Duke Mauryn. Regarding Mauryn, J.B. Friedman 
writes that, “ ... it sounds rather like Moor in this context.” 4 As late as 1 398 we 
find the following reference to the Moors: “Also the nacyn [nation] of Maurys 
[Moors] theyr blacke colour comyth of the inner partes.” 5 

There are Irish records of a Viking raid on Spain and North Africa in 862. 
During the raid a number of Blacks were captured and some carried to Dublin. 
In Ireland they were known as “blue men” (Irish, fir gorma\ Old Norse, 
blamenn). The entry is under the title “Three Fragments Copied from Ancient 
Sources,” and sheds further light on the ethnicity of the Moors. The entry 

After that, the Scandinavians went through the country, and ravaged it; 
and they burned the whole land; and they brought a great host of [the 
Moors] in captivity with them to Ireland. These are the ‘blue men’ (fir 
gorma ); because the Moors are the same as negroes; Mauretania is the 
same as negro-land. 6 

A vital source of information regarding medieval Spain is the Cantigas of 
Santa Maria . Sponsored and allegedly written by Alfonso X (1254-86), the 
Cantigas represent a survey of secular medieval attitudes and actions. At least 
twenty-eight of the long poems deal primarily with Moors. One mentions 
Yusuf ibn Tachfin and the Almoravid conquests. This may indicate that the 
clearly distinct Blacks identified as Moors in most of the Cantigas are most 
intimately connected with the Almoravid invasions of Spain during the elev- 
enth century. 

Medieval illuminators portrayed Blacks in the Cantigas in a variety of roles, 
from members of the aristocracy to the military. Included among the aristo- 
cratic images of Islamic Spain is a Black man receiving gifts from a caliph or 
emir. In another, two “Noble Moors” are shown playing chess while being 
attended by Black and White servants and musicians. In the Almoravid army, 
Moors are shown as foot soldiers, bowmen, lancers on horseback, as well as 
high-ranking officers. They are also shown as menials, musicians, and Chris- 
tian converts. 7 

During the Middle Ages, because of his dark complexion and Islamic faith, 
the Moor became in Europe a symbol of guile, evil and hate. 8 In medieval 
literature demonic figures were commonly depicted with black faces. Among 
Satan’s titles in medieval folklore were: “Black Knight,” “Black Man,” 
“Black Ethiopian,” and “Big Negro.” In the Cantiga 185 of King Alfonso the 
Wise of Spain (1254-86), three Moors attacking the Castle of Chincoya are 
described as “black as Satan.” In Cantiga 329, an extremely black man who 
has stolen objects from a Christian church is identified as a Moor. 9 In the Poema 

Brunson and Rashidi 

Figure 1. Moorish noblemen playing chess; from the Chessbook of Alfonso X the Wise, Castile. Date: 1283. 

Figure 2. Expedition of Muslim soldiers to kidnap a Christian count. 
Note Black Moors; from the Cantigas . Date: 1254. 

Figure 4. Muslim expedition at sea. Note Black Moor in center; from the 
C antigas. Date: 1254. 

figure 5. Moors leading Christian captives; from the Cantigas . Date: 1252. 

Figure 6. Moorish dancer; from Munich, Germany. Date: 1480. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

de Fernan Gonzalez , devils and Moors are equally described as 
“carbonientos” — literally the “coal-faced ones.” 10 

French historian Jean Devisse writes that “The Castilians were at first 
acutely aware of the power of Black fighting men, and in time transferred the 
old feeling of hostility from Aethiops to the Black Moor . . .” r 1 As is well known, 
not all of the battles during these years of Islamic domination resulted in 
Moorish victories. For example, during a fierce engagement in 1096 between 
the Moors and Spanish Christians, four Moorish princes were killed. Around 
1281, Peter III of Aragon commemorated this Christian victory with the 
amorial bearings of a cross cantoned between four woolly-haired Moors. This 
coat of arms was updated by the Hapsburg king Charles on a gold coin shortly 
after 1700. Moors with broad noses, thick lips, and woolly heads (upon which 
rest crowns), dominate the coin. 

During the European Renaissance, explorers, writers, and scholars began 
to apply the term Moor to Blacks in general. A prominent example of this 
tendency can be found in the work of Richard Hakluyt, a fifteenth century 
traveller. Hakluyt recorded that, “In old times the people of Africa were called 
aethiops and nigritae, which we now call Moores , Moorens y or Negroes” 12 

Shakespearean scholar Elmer E. Stoll provides additional insight regarding 
the use of the word Moor as it relates to late Medieval and early Renaissance 

A striking proof that the word Moor was, as among the Germans at this 
time, exactly equivalent to negro, is not only its use as applied to the 
curly-haired, thick-lipped Aaron in Titus Andronicus, but also the con- 
stant interchange of the two words as applied to the equally unmistakable 
negro Eleazar, in Lust's Dominion . 13 

In the Romance languages (Spanish, French and Italian) of Medieval 
Europe, Moor was translated as Moro, Moir, and Mor. Derivatives of the word 
Moor may be found even today in these same languages. In Spanish, for 
example, the word for blackberry is mora — a noun which originally meant 
Moorish woman. Also in Spanish, the adjective for dark-complexioned , which 
now means brunette , is moreno. We find a similar legacy in the French lan- 
guage. In French moricaud means dark-skinned or blackamoor , while morillion 
means black grape. Again, as in the Spanish, the Italian word mora means 
Negro or Moorish female . Also in Italian, Mora means blackberry , while 
moraiola means black olive . 14 

The Term Berber 

“Strictly speaking,” writes Thomas F. Click, “Moors were Mauri, Berbers 
who lived in the Roman province of Mauretania; therefore, its use stresses, 
sometimes by design, the Berber contributions to al-Andalusian culture.” 15 In 

Brunson and Rashidi 

Arabic literature the word Moor was fairly non-existent, and the term Berber 
was applied to practically all the inhabitants of the Maghrib (Islamic North 
Africa west of Egypt). 

The term Berber is thought to have derived from the Latin barbari , an ap- 
pellation equivalent to the English “barbarian,” which the Romans called 
peoples who spoke neither Latin or Greek. The view that the ancient Berbers 
were a predominantly white-skinned, blue-eyed race of Hamites has been 
largely shaped by recent colonial attitudes towards Africa. Another idea that 
seems to be gaining general acceptance is that the bulk of the population 
consisted of a mixture. Our view is that the Berbers emerged as the result of an 
intermixture between Caucasoid people (who had moved into the Maghrib by 
the second millennium B.C.) and the ipore ancient Africoid inhabitants of 
North Africa. Among the Berbers of North Africa, according to Roman 
documents, were the “black Gaetuli (Melanogaetuli) and black-skinned 
Asphodelodes.” 16 In addition, Harold A. MacMichael points out that Africoid 
Blacks — the Tibbu and Tuwarek — resembling the ancient Nigritians of the 
Sahara, are by origin Lamta Berbers. 17 The Haratin, an ancient people whose 
descendants now occupy southern Morocco and Mauritania, have been called 
“black Berbers.” 18 

Arab geographer Ibn Hawkal (ca. 950) considered the Tuareg to have come 
“originally from the Sudan, and that by their mothers they are children of 
Ham.” 19 Wah ibn Munabhih (who died in 732) wrote that the Berbers be- 
longed to the Black races of Ham. 20 ‘Uthman’ Amr ibn Bahr al-Jahiz (776- 
869), a brilliant Black Muslim writer, in a significant work entitled The Su- 
periority of the Blacks Over the Whites , stated that “among the Blacks are 
counted the Sudanese, the Ethiopians, the Fezzan, the Berbers, the Copts, the 
Nubians, the Zaghawa, the Moors.” 21 

Included among the pastoral Berber clans were the Luwata, Zanata, Nafusa, 
Zuwagha, Miknasa, and Nafzawa. Among the more sedentary Berber clans 
were the Sanhadja, Masmuda, Kutama, Ghamara, and Hawwara. Of the clans 
that were instrumental in the Muslim invasions and occupation of Spain were 
the Nafza, Masmuda, Luwata, Hawwara, Zanata, Sanhadja, and Zugwaha. 

A Muslim scholar, while discussing the Berber women of the Sanhadja 
confederation, wrote that, “Their color is black, though some pale ones can be 
found among them.” 22 In the Romance of the Cid (Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar) 
with its graphic references to the Almoravids, we are further informed of the 
ethnicity of at least some Berber women. This group of women consisted of 
three hundred Almoravid Amazons led by a “black Moorish woman” named 
Nugaymath Turquia. “She appears in the Primera Cronica General of Alfonso 
X (El Sabio), king of Castile and Leon (1252-84). The Primera was com- 
pleted about 1289 under his successor Sancho IV. The events are associated 
with the Almoravid siege of Valencia after the death of the Cid. Nugaymath 
Turquia is the leader of a band of three hundred Amazons. They are negresses, 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 8. Moors as envoys before the anti-Christ. Propaganda work of 
Spanish artists. Date: 1400. 

Brunson and Rashidi 


! m | (I lillllii r m § k : t. 

i| ' I ;r- : | 

Figure 9. Detail of Black Moors marching to the anti-Christ. Propaganda 
work of Spanish artists. Date: 1400. 

Golden Age of the Moor 

Brunson and Rashidi 

i ne origi 
of Arago 
tian cros 
which fo 
been def 

42 Golden Age of the Moor 

they have their heads shaven, leaving only a topknot, they are on a pilgrimage 
and they are armed with Turkish bows.” 23 According to the text: 

King Bucar ordered that black Moorish woman to encamp nearest to the 
town with all her company.... That Moorish woman was so shrewd a 
master archer with the Turkish bow that it was a wonder to behold, and 
for that reason (the History) says that the Moors called her in Arabic 
nugaymath turquia, which means ‘star of the archers of Turkey .’ 24 

Far from being primitive savages, the accumulated evidence points to 
industry, commerce, and technical proficiency amongst the ancient Berbers. 
Among the products introduced by them into Spain were olives, wheat, figs, 
amergris, and saffron. Dyes and garments from North Africa were also highly 
prized. These North Africans engaged in the mining of silver and iron, and 
traded in gold and coral with the Sudan. 

The Term Saracen 

While many scholars generally agree that the word Saracen is of Afro- 
Asiatic origin, it is “far from certain” that it means “Easterner.” 25 The general 
belief is that “the Saracens were originally nomadic tribes of the Arabian and 
Syrian deserts, early known as peoples who attacked the borders of the 
Roman Empire.” 26 Pliny the Elder, or Pliny the Naturalist (23-79 A.D.) 
appears to have been the earliest author to mention the Saracens as a group of 
people. 27 St. Jerome (ca. 375), in his Commentario-rum inEsaiam, identified 
a people in Western Asia known as the Agareni (Hagarens, descendants of 
Hagar the Egyptian) “who are now called Saracens, taking themselves the 
name Sara.” 28 German theologian, Rabanus Maurus (776-856) made similar 
observations. In his Commentaria in Genesim, Maurus connected the Moors 
typologically with the house of Ishmael. 29 It is significant to note that an early 
Medieval kingdom located in the Mesopotamian delta was called Karacen. It 
was known to the Byzantine Greeks as Saracenos. 30 According to French 
historian Jean-Paul Clebert, “Kara (which means Black) linguistically evolved 
into Sarakenos, Saracin.” 31 

u ^he Medieval Spanish painter,” says French art historian, Jean Devisse, 
associated the color black with the Saracens.” 32 Dorothee Mitlitzki, how- 
ever, stresses that 4 The people who contributed to the formation of what, in 
t e Middle Ages, was known as Saracen culture, were of the most varied 
et me origins. 33 Saracens served a crucial public role, states Mitlitzki — 
po itical, military, and religious — and what is fanciful in them is emphasized 
or the purposes of patriotism, propaganda and entertainment. 34 It is in this 
context that the prominent position of confrontation between Christian knights 
and mighty (even gigantic) Black Saracen warriors, emerges. 

Brunson and Rashidi 

The Song of Roland 

The Song of Roland (ca. 1100), the celebrated medieval epic poem, 
chronicles the eighth century Frankish invasion of northern Spain, and de- 
scribes the Saracens in detail. Sir Roland (the epic’s hero) was allegedly the 
Prefect of Britanny and a champion and gallant warrior in the army of the 
Carolingian emperor Charlemagne. Roland is said to have perished while 
defending the rear-guard of the Frankish army during the Battle of Roncesvalles 
on August 15, 778. 

As noted by H.T. Norris, “The Song of Roland is particularly harsh in its 
abuse and racial hatred.” 35 The epic is alternately laced with contrasting im- 
ages of the Saracens as vile and repulsive, dashing, lady-killing, beautifully 
arrayed in battle and envied for their magnificent Arabian steeds. Fortunately, 
from Roland’s epic encounter with the Saracens we have an important window 
from which we can view both the pronounced Africoid element in the Saracen 
ranks and Christian Europe’s sharp reaction to it. Sighting the Saracen army, 
Sir Roland declares that: 

At their head rides the Saracen Abisme [Abyssinian?]: no worse criminal 
rides in that company, stained with the marks of his crimes and great 
treasons, lacking the faith in God, Saint Mary’s son. And he is black , as 
black as melted pitch . . . 36 

In addition, the epic speaks of: 

Ethiope, a cursed land indeed; The blackamoors from there are in his 
keep, Broad in the nose they are and flat in ear, Fifty thousand and more 
in company . 37 

And then, to further highlight the racial identity of the army facing Roland: 

When Roland sees that unbelieving race, those hordes and hordes blacker 
than the blackest ink — no shred of white on them except their teeth ... 38 

In an Italian palace in Treviso, dated to the late fourteenth century, there are 
vivid frescoes of the Song of Roland. One of these frescoes portrays the con- 
version and baptism of Otuel the Saracen, who is painted with black skin. 39 

Black Saracens: Giants and Mighty Warriors 

Representations of Black Saracen giants in medieval literature begin with 
Vernagu — found in the Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle of Charlemagne. Dated to 
the early fourteenth century, the Rouland and Vernagu describes a duel be- 
tween the “black as pitch” Saracen — Vernagu, and the Christian knight 
Roland. Another towering figure was Alagolfare — the Ethiopian giant of the 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Brunson and Rashidi 



Figure 12. Ysore, the Black “Saracen” giant. Date: 1250. 

Sowdone ofBabylone, whose “skin was black and hard.” 40 It is said that: 

This Astrogot (Alagolfare) of Ethiopia/ he was a king of great strength; 

There was none such in Europe. So strong and so long in length/ 1 trowe 
(?) he were a devil’s son of Bezelbubb’s line. 41 

There is also the legendary fight between William of Orange (an eleventh 
century count of Poitiers) and Ysore (a Black Saracen giant). The portrayals 
of Black Saracen giants in medieval literature thus reflects the realistic 
associations of “tall Africans in Saracen armies.” 42 

Blacks likewise appear as sea-roving Saracens in the early Viking sagas. 
For example, in the Orkneyinga Saga (a thirteenth century Icelandic account 
of the Earls of Orkney), references are made to a great battle on the Mediter- 
ranean Sea between Vikings and Black Saracens. It is stated that: 

Once both parties were aboard there was fierce fighting, the people on the 
dromond being Saracens, whom we call infidels of Mohammed, among 
them a good many black men, who put up a strong resistance. 43 

The fighting qualities of the Black Saracens must have been quite striking 
to the Earl of Orkney, who wrote: 

Erling, honored aimer of spears, eagerly advanced toward the vessel in 
victory, with banners of blood; the black warriors, brave lads, we cap- 
tured or killed, crimsoning our blades. Busy with this dromond business 
our blades we bloodied on the blacks ... 44 

After sparing some of the captives, including their leader, these Vikings fell 
into the hands of more Saracens, “who repaid them with similar generosity.” 45 

Moorish Militarism 

The discussion of Moorish militarism begins distinctly with the ancient 
martial conflicts between Rome and Carthage. Moorish soldiers are men- 
tioned as early as the expedition to Sicily in 406 B.C., in a revolt by a certain 
Hanno (circa 350 B.C.) and the Roman invasion of Africa in 256 B.C. 46 They 
are similarly mentioned in Livy’s account of the second Punic War (218-201 
B.C.) 47 In their bitter, prolonged and increasingly desperate struggle for 
national independence and control of the western Mediterranean, the 
Carthaginians utilized Moorish troops as integral elements in all of their battle 
campaigns. With the Numidians, the Moors fought on the side of the 
Carthaginians against the Romans. These redoubtable Moorish warriors greatly 
aided the Carthaginians, and were particularly beneficial to Hannibal Barca — 
the illustrious African general. Indeed, Hannibal, “who had over 6,000 [Moors] 
at his disposal, suffered his only defeat when they were no longer available.” 48 

S . 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 13. Black Moors with King Agolant attacking Christian fortress (related to the Song of Roland theme). Date: 1350. 

Brunson and Rashidi 47 

Nevertheless, with the destruction of Carthage in the third Punic War (150- 
146 B.C.), Rome became the supreme power in North Africa. In spite of 
Roman dominance, however, regional and national independence movements 
continued unceasingly. Unfortunately, because of the many North African 
revolts against Roman authority, historians tend to mention only those that 
were of exceptional violence and intensity. One such rising, known as the 
Jugurthine War (112-105 B.C.), was initiated by the nationalist fervor of the 
North African patriot Jugurtha. Directing an unrelenting guerrilla war, Jugurtha 
became a formidable adversary to his enemies, inflicting embarrassing de- 
feats upon the Roman legions. “The wars of Jugurtha,” writes Graham Webster, 
“demonstrated the value of the nimble Moorish horsemen who Trajan later 
found so useful against the Dacians.” 49 

During the Dacian Wars of eastern Europe (101-105), the Roman military 
relied heavily upon highly mobile units of Moorish cavalry. On a Roman 
column dedicated to the wars of Trajan in Dacia, there is a special relief 
devoted to a large body of galloping horsemen easily recognizable as Moors. 
They are depicted with tiered and plaited rows of curled hair, short tunics, 
saddleless with only a single bridle. Another work dated to the same period is 
a terracotta human head found in the Dacian city of Suicidava. Described by 
archaeologists as the head of a “Negro or Moor,” it is in many respects similar 
to the horse cavalry depicted on the Roman column. 

Black soldiers, specifically identified as Moors, were actively recruited by 
Rome and served tours of duty in Britain, France, Switzerland, Austria, 
Hungary, Poland, Romania, etc. 

An original brass military diploma which dates from the middle of the 
second century A.D. mentions Moorish soldiers in Moesia, which is 
modern Serbia. Another military diploma of A.D. 158 speaks of Moorish 
soldiers from Africa in Dacia, or modern Rumania, and also of auxiliary 
troops of the Dacian Moors. A Roman document, Notitia Dignitatum, 
which dates from the beginning of the fifth century A.D., mentions 
several Moorish battalions in the Balkans and the Moorish military 
colony Ad Mauros which was located on the Inn River near Vienna; and 
in what is modern Besarabia, there was a city called Maurocastrum. 
According to the document Notitia Dignitatum, 2500 to 5000 Illyrian 
Moorish soldiers, in five separate military units, had served in the Near 
East. From this document we must deduce that at the beginning of the 
fifth century at least 100,000 descendants of Moors lived in Illyricum, 
which was located in the present-day Balkans. 50 

Regarding specific military men of Moorish extraction, there were several 
that served Rome honorably, or had ancestors that participated in Rome’s 
foreign wars. In 253, for example, “After his departure, the governor of 
Lower Moesia (modern Serbia), M. Aemilius Aemilianus, a Moor born in 
Mauretania, succeeded in defeating the Goths and was proclaimed emperor 
by his troops.” 51 In another case, Zenophilus, Consul of Numidia, boasts that 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Brunson and Rashidi 




“My grandfather is a soldier, he had served in the Commitatus, for our family 
is of Moorish origin/’ 52 To the Commitatus belonged the renowned Equites 
Mauri, a Black horse cavalry of North Africa. 

The Moors Before the Invasion of Spain 

We should not lose sight of the fact that connections between North Africa 
and Spain were in existence centuries before the birth of Muhammad. It 
would not even be presumptuous to suggest that very early blood ties may 
have connected the regions. The fact that Blacks had lived in some of the 
same Iberian regions later occupied by Islamic Moors suggests this. For 
example, the city of Osuna, in southern Spain, has yielded several archaeo- 
logical works depicting Blacks with tightly curled hair which archaeologists 
have labeled “Negroid.” As long ago as 170, writes Durant, “the Mauri or 
Moors invaded Spain from Africa.” 53 Even earlier, according to Laroui, “The 
Berbers of that region [North Africa] made incursions into Baetica, Spain.” 54 
But the use of the term “Berber” perhaps camouflages the issue here. Regard- 
ing the same event, W.T. Arnold speaks of “Moorish incursions in Baetica as 
early as the first century.” 55 Interestingly enough, many of these Moors were 

During the sixth century, the Byzantine historian Procopius and the Latin 
poet Corippus compiled precious documents regarding the Moors in post- 
Roman North Africa. During this period the dominance of the Vandals, the 
Germanic tribes who had invaded North Africa in 429 and seized several 
provinces (including Mauretania), was challenged politically and militarily. 
In providing a veritable war correspondent’s view, Procopius chronicled the 
ferocious assaults and ultimate victories of the Moorish rebels. This is re- 
corded in his volume, appropriately entitled The Wars: 

When the Moors wrested Aurasium from the Vandals, not a single enemy 
had until now ever come there or so much as caused the barbarians to be 
afraid that they would come.... And the Moors of that place also held the 
land west of Aurasium, a tract both extensive and fertile. And beyond 
these dwelt other nations of the Moors, who were ruled by Ortaias . 56 

This statement shows that the Moors were not only perceived by Procopius as 
numerically significant, but demonstrates that they occupied an extensive 
portion of northwest Africa. 

During this same period Byzantine arms began moving into Africa. With 
them came strong efforts to renew the grip of Roman dominance. The 
emperor Justinian sent in General Johannes Troglita to quell the challenge to 
Byzantine authority, but was forced to face a full-scale war. There was a great 
slaughter and taking of prisoners, as recounted by Corippus in the military 
epic Iohannis. Corippus recorded not only the slaying of several Moorish 

■ : ; _ 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 15. Moorish head found at Suicidava (modern Romania). Date: 2nd 

Brunson and Rashidi 


Figure 16. Africoid type from Osuna, Spain. Date: Punic period. 

; : 

Golden Age of the Moor 

Brunson and Rashidi 

Figure 17. Africoid type from Osuna, Spain. Date: Punic period, 

Figure 18. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

chieftains, he also mentioned a number of captives that were as “black as 
crows.” 57 One Moorish ruler, however, Garmul (king of Mauretania), engi- 
neered the crushing of the Byzantine army in 571. Such events established the 
situation in North Africa prior to the Arab invasions late in the seventh 

The Moorish Conquest of Spain 

Early in the eighth century, after a grim and extended resistance to the Arab 
invasions of North Africa, the Moors joined the triumphant surge of Islam. 
Following this, they crossed over to the Iberian peninsula where their swift 
victories and remarkable feats soon became the substance of legends. The 
man chosen to lead the probe into Iberia was Tarif, son of Zar’a ibn Abi 
Mudrik. Tarif was one of the young generation of Islamized Berbers imbued 
with the military thinking of Hassan ibn al-Nu’man and Musa ibn Nusayr - 
the two men who had just commanded the Arab conquest of northwest Africa. 
In July 710, Tarif, with four-hundred foot soldiers and one-hundred horse, all 
Berbers, successfully carried out a reconnaissance mission in southern Iberia. 
Tarifa, a small port in southern Spain, is named after him. 

It is clear, however, that the conquest of Spain was undertaken upon the 
initiative of Tarik ibn Ziyad. Tarik ibn Ziyad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Walghu was 
a member of the Warfadjuma branch of the Nafza Berbers. Musa ibn Nusayr 
had previously appointed him governor of the far western Maghrib, which 
covered what is today the southern part of the kingdom of Morocco. Tarik 
was in command of an army of at least 10,000 men, mainly Sanhadja Berbers. 

In 711, with a Berber expeditionary force and a small number of Arab 
translators and propagandists (some say three-hundred), Tarik crossed the 
straits and disembarked near a rocky promontory which from that day since 
has born his name: Djabal Tarik (Tarik’s mountain), or, Gibraltar. In August 
711, he won a decisive victory over the Visigoth army. It was during this 
conflict that Roderick (the last Visigoth king) was killed. On the eve of the 
battle, Tarik is alleged to have roused his troops with the following words: 
“My brethren, the enemy is before you, the sea is behind; whither would ye 
fly? Follow your general: I am resolved either to lose my life or to trample on 
the prostrate king of the Romans.” 58 

Wasting no time to relish his victory, Tarik pushed on with his seemingly 
tireless Berber cavalry to Toledo and seized the Visigoth capital. Within a 
month’s time, Tarik ibn Ziyad had effectively terminated Visigothic domi- 
nance of the Iberian peninsula. 

Musa ibn Nusayr joined Tarik in Spain, and helped complete the conquest 
of Iberia with an army of 18,000 Arab and Berber troops. The two command- 
ers met at Talavera. Here, Tarik and his Berbers were given the task of 
subduing the northwest of Spain. With vigor and speed they set about their 

Brunson and Rashidi 

mission, and within three months they had swept the entire territory north of 
the Ebro River as far as the Pyrenees, and annexed the turbulent Basque 
country. There they left a small detachment of men under Munusa, a Berber 
lieutenant who was later to play a decisive role in the Muslim campaigns in 
southern France. 

In the aftermath of these brilliant struggles, Berbers by the thousand 
flooded into the Iberian peninsula. So eager were they to come that some are 
said to have floated over on tree-trunks. Tarik himself, at the conclusion of his 
illustrious military career, retired to the distant East, we are informed, to 
spread the teachings of Islam. 

While many modern historians refer to Tarik’s garrison as Berbers and 
Arabs, primary sources, such as Ibn Husayn (ca. 950), recorded that these 
troops were “Sudanese,” an Arabic word for Black people. 59 Arab writers Ibn 
Hayyans and Ibn al-Athir (1160-1234), the authors of the Dhikr Bilad al- 
Andalus and the Akbar Majmu'a respectively, both refer to Tarik’s invading 
force. The author of the Dhikr Bilad al-Andalus specifically refers to a force 
of at least seven hundred Sudanese in Tarik’s garrison. This suggests that 
some modern writers have attempted to place an artificial wedge between 
these early Berbers and Blacks. 

References to these Blacks have so puzzled some modern scholars that 
there have been vain attempts to explain away and discredit their very 
existence. For example, Norris writes: 

When some of the accounts tell of Negroes in Tarik’s army, that army 
which ascended the Rock of Gibraltar with its pack beasts, built a wall for 
defense and mastered the plain of Algeciras, then it is improbable that 
they were Nubians or Ethiopians . 60 

In discussing the status of these Blacks, Taha suggests that they were 
probably slaves. 61 An Arab legend describes these Blacks as pseudo-canni- 
bals: “The Sudanese (Blacks) took captive some of the Goths. They slew them 
and pretended to eat them and this added to the fear and terror of them.” 62 
There is really no need to speculate on the ethnicity of these early invaders of 
the conquest period. Primary Christian sources relating to the conquest, 
particularly the Primera Cronica General of Alfonso X, make the following 
observation on the Moors: “Their faces were as black as pitch, the handsomest 
amongst them was as black as a cooking pot.” 63 

With the conquest and settlement of Spain, the Arabs developed patterns of 
racial bias towards the Berbers. This bias, sometimes blatant and other times 
more subtle, manifested itself in various ways, including disproportionate tax 
assessments and poor land allotments. For example, after founding the Almohad 
dynasty, the Berber ruler Abd al-Mu’min offered the Granadan post of “able 
secretary” to an Arab poet named Abu Ga’far. Scheduled to work with al- 
Mu’min ’s son, Abu Said, the Arab poet hesitated “because the dark-skinned 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Berber seemed to him far below his own intellectual standards.” 64 This kind 
of attitude often led to hostile feelings, open rebellions, and shifting alliances 
between the Arab, Berber, and Christian factions of the Iberian peninsula. 

In the ninth century, in order to achieve commercial dominance in the 
region, Muslim powers in Tunisia launched an invasion of Sicily. The con- 
quest was facilitated by "large and well organized fleets” coming from the 
east coast of Spain and the western Maghrib, and manned chiefly by Berbers. 
It began in 827, and ended ten years later with the storming of Palermo. The 
occupation of Palermo was followed by the occupation of Messina in 842 and 
Syracuse in 87 8. In 937, Ibn Hawkal noted that Blacks were very common in 
Palermo. Regarding one of the city’s main entrances, Hawkal wrote that it 
was called the "Bab es Soudan,” or "Gate of the Blacks,” so named after its 
ebony-hued residents. 65 Pope Leo III referred to these Blacks variously as 
Moors, Agareni, and Saracens. 66 

Islamic encroachment on the European mainland took place around 846, 
when "Saracens” landed at the mouth of the Tiber River and besieged Rome! 
Of this invasion, the German historian Hincmar (ca. 875) wrote that: 

The Arabs and Moors assaulted Rome on the Tiber, and when they laid 
waste to the basilica of the blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, and 
carried off all the ornaments and treasures, with the very altar which was 
situated above the tomb of the famous prince of apostles, they occupied 
strongly a fortified hill a hundred miles from the city . 67 

In the invasion of Rome, Pope John VII agreed to pay an annual tribute of 
25,000 marks of silver to the Saracens to retreat. 

Frederick II (1197-1250), of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, developed espe- 
cially close relationships with the remaining Blacks in Sicily, and retained a 
Moorish chamberlain who was constantly in his presence. While admittedly 
breaking the Islamic powerbase, he also solicited the aid of the Moors from 
Palermo in his intense struggle with the papacy. After resettling conquered 
Muslims on the Italian mainland at Lucera, the monarch recruited an elite 
guard unit of 16,000 Black troops. 

One of the independent sovereigns of Moorish descent with whom Frederick 
II came into contact was Morabit, a name whose attachment may be found 
wit the Sanhadja Berber tribes known as Murabit. Growing conflicts and 
re e ion against the expansionist policies of Frederick II eventually led to the 
eat o Morabit. In 1239, however, another Black man, Johannes Maurus, 
a aine a position of considerable authority at the Hohenstaufen royal court, 
in bouth Italy and Sicily,” writes Paul Kaplan, “dark-skinned Moslems had 
a ready been visible for several centuries.” 68 

Brunson and Rashidi 

The Moorish Occupation of Spain 

Among the most substantial Berber groups to occupy Spain were the 
Hawwara, Luwata, Nafza, Masmuda, Miknasa, Zanata, and Sanhadja. Before 
participating in the eighth century invasion of Spain, the Hawwara Berbers in 
Africa occupied the province of Tripolitania and the deserts of southern 
Tunisia. They worshipped the Libyan sun-god Amun, who was depicted as a 
bull or ram. After the invasion of Spain, they settled in Cordoba, and estab- 
lished a fortified city near Jaen. A wealthy group of Hawwara also settled in 
Morida and Medellin. AM-al-Rahman ibn Musa al-Hawwari was a judge in 
Ecija during the reign of AM-al-Rahman III. 

The golden age of the Umayyad dynasty in Spain came during the tenth 
century. Under the reigns of Afed-al-Rahman III (912-61) and Hakam II (961— 
76), the Umayyad dynasty established sovereignty over the most substantial 
portion of the Iberian peninsula. At the pinnacle of the Umayyad dynasty the 
great city of Cordoba possessed 200,000 residences, 600 mosques, and 900 
public baths that were patronized by all social classes. Among his many 
accomplishments, Hakam II added twenty-seven schools for the free instruc- 
tion of the poor. It should be pointed out that, at least during this era of Islamic 
Spain, girls as well as boys went to school, and numerous Moorish women 
became prominent in the literary and artistic fields. Other Moorish women 
were involved in education, law, medicine and library science. 

Both Tarik ibn Ziyad and AM-al-Rahman I — the founder of the Umayyad 
dynasty in Spain in 756, are said to have belonged to the Nafza Berbers. In 
fact, one of the most important keys to AM-al-Rahman’s success as a mon- 
arch was his recruitment, directly from Africa, of a well-trained army of more 
than 40,000 Berbers. Many of the Nafza settled in Spain. Rich and numerous, 
the Nafza Berbers of Osuna, Spain, became civic leaders, writers and theolo- 
gians. The Nafza also constituted a significant part of the population of 

The Masmuda Berbers were described as Blacks by Abu Shama in his 
Kitab al-Ravdatayn. 69 They settled in several parts of Spain, including Mawrur, 
Cordoba, Valencia, Guadalajara, and Santaver. Masmuda Berbers also settled 
in southern Portugal. Neither did wealth and prestige escape the Masmuda. 
The previously mentioned founder of the powerful Almohad dynasty, AM al- 
Mumin, was a Masmuda Berber. 

Al-Kahina (ca. 690), the woman who led the most determined resistance to 
the early Arab invasion of North Africa, was a Zanata Berber. With the 
invasion of Spain, many Zanatas settled near Seville, in Sidonia, Alicante, 
Murcia, Guadalajara, and in the region of Saragossa. The Marinids, who in 
1275 invaded Spain from Morocco and defeated Christian Castile, were 
Zanata Berbers. Zanata is written several ways in various texts, including 
Zenata, Znaga and Zenaga. The Zanata used a Libyco-Berber script and spoke 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 21. Moors and Arabs confronting Christians. Date: 1350. 

Brunson and Rashidi 61 

Zenega, a Kushito-Hamitic language. This seems to be the basis for the name 
Senegal. The Zanata are also credited with having introduced the camel into 
the Maghrib. 

The Sanhadja Berbers of the western Sahara were composed of both 
sedentary peoples and nomads. Included among the nomad Sanhadja were the 
Lamta and Lamtuna Berbers. The Sanhadja, known as the Mulaththamun 
(people of the veil), were responsible for the second significant Moorish 
invasion of al-Andalus (the Arabic name for Islamic Spain). In 1095, the 
Sanhadja Berbers initiated the Almoravid dynasty. The Almoravid dynasty 
was called the “Empire of the Two Shores.” It lasted a hundred years and 
stretched from the Senegal River in West Africa to the Ebro River in northern 

Spain. ; 

There has been much discussion and speculation about the Sanhadja face 
mufflers. In Islamic Spain the veil was considered a privilege of the true 
Almoravids, and its wearing was forbidden to all but the Sanhadja. It was 
something like a uniform or distinctive dress of the ruling class. According to 
Ibn Hawkal, “Since the day they were created their faces . . . have never been 
seen, unless it be their eyes. This is because they muffle their faces when they 
are young and they grow up with that custom.” 70 

According to al-Bakri (d. 1078), there were among the Sanhadja Berbers 
Blacks “professing Judaism.” 71 These Blacks are referred to as the Bafour. The 
Bafour practiced Judaism before they were overcome and absorbed by the 
Almoravids. The Bafour and Sanhadja are both linked, by the way, through 
their association with the early rulers of the Ghanaian Empire. 

A prototype of the warrior-king, both as priest and potentate, the Almoravid 
emperor Yusuf ibn Tashfin led veiled fighting men into al-Andalus beginning 
in 1086, at the request of the hard-pressed Muslim residents of Spain. Yusuf, 
a Sanhadja Berber from the Sudan, had his physical features described by the 
Arab chronicler al-Fasi as brown-skinned, small-framed and hook-nosed, 
with heavy eyebrows and woolly hair. 72 

Among Yusufs troops was a personal retinue of 4,000 Blacks carrying 
Lamti shields (covered in hippopotamus skin), peculiar bows, Yazani spears, 
Zabian javelins, and moving to the constant sound of drumming. “The bizarre 
aspect of the African army,” writes Norris, “was a valuable psychological 
weapon.” 73 

The Black St. Maurice: Knight of the Holy Lance 

The name Maurice is derived from Latin and means “like a Moor.” The 
Black St. Maurice (the Knight of the Holy Lance) is regarded as the greatest 
patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire. The earliest version of the Maurice 
story and the account upon which all later versions are based, is found in the 
writings of Eucherius, Bishop of Lyons (ca. 450). According to Eucherius, 

62 Golden Age of the Moor 

Maurice was a high official in the Thebaid region of Egypt — an early center 
of Christianity. Specifically, Maurice was the commander of a Roman legion 
of Christian soldiers stationed in Africa. By the decree of Roman emperor 
Maximian, his contingent of 6,600 men was dispatched to Gaul and ordered to 
suppress a Christian uprising there. Maurice disobeyed the order. Subse- 
quently, he and almost all of his troops were martyred when they chose to die 
rather than persecute Christians, renounce their faith, and sacrifice to the gods 
of the Romans. The execution of the Theban Legion occurred in Switzerland 
near Aganaum (which later became Saint Maurice-en-Valais) on September 
22, either in the year 280 or 300. 

In the second half of the fourth century the worship of St. Maurice spread 
over a broad area in Switzerland, northern Italy, Burgundy, and along the 
Rhine. Tours, Angers, Lyons, Chalon-sur-Saone, and Dijon had churches 
dedicated to St. Maurice. By the epoch of Islamic Spain, the stature of St. 
Maurice had reached immense proportions. Charlemagne, the grandson of 
Charles Martel and the most distinguished representative of the Carolingian 
dynasty, attributed to St. Maurice the virtues of the perfect Christian warrior. 
In token of victory, Charlemagne had the Lance of St. Maurice (a replica of 
the holy lance reputed to have pierced the side of Christ) carried before the 
Frankish army. Like the general populace, which strongly relied on St. 
Maurice for intercession, the Carolingian dynasty prayed to this military saint 
for the strength to resist and overcome attacks by enemy forces. 

In 962, Otto I chose Maurice as the title patron of the archbishopric of 
Magdeburg, Germany. By 1000 C.E. the worship of Maurice was only 
rivalled by St. George and St. Michael. After the second half of the twelfth 
century, the emperors were appointed by the pope in front of the altar of St. 
Maurice, in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. 

In Halle, Germany, a monastery with a school attached to it was founded 
and dedicated to St. Maurice in 1184. In 1240, a splendid Africoid statue of 
St. Maurice was placed in the majestic cathedral of Magdeburg. The facial 
characteristics of the statue are described as follows: 

The relatively small opening in the closely fitting mail coif was 
sufficient for the Magdeburg sculptor to produce a convincing charac- 
terization of St. Maurice as an African. The facial proportions show 
typical alterations in comparison with European physiognomy. The broad, 
rounded contours of the nose are recognizable although the tip has been 
broken off. 

The African features are emphasized by the surviving remains of the 
old polychromy. The skin is colored bluish black, the lips are red, and the 
dark pupils stand out clearly against the white of the eyeballs. The golden 
chain mail of the coif serves, in turn, to form a sharp contrast with the 
| dark face . 74 



Figure 22. Detail of depiction of Kingdom of Agen defended by Moors against Charlemagne. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 23. Detail of conquest of Majorca, Spain. Note Black Moor and flag 
with so-called Star of David. Date: 1250. 

Brunson and Rashidi 65 

A center of extreme devotion to St. Maurice was developed in the Baltic 
states, where merchants in Tallin and Riga adopted his iconography. The 
House of the Black Heads of Riga, for instance, possessed a polychromed 
wooden statuette of St. Maurice. Their seal bore the distinct image of a 
Moor’s head. 

In 1479, Ernest built several castles, one of which he named after St. 
Maurice — the Moritzburg. Under a banner emblazoned with the image of a 
Black St. Maurice, the political and religious leaders of the Holy Roman 
Empire battled the Slavs. The cult of St. Maurice reached its most lavish 
heights under Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg (1490-1545), who established 
a pilgrimage at Halle in honor of the Black saint. Between 1523 and 1540, 
people from throughout the empire journeyed to Halle to worship the relics of 
St. Maurice. ^ 

The existence of nearly three hundred major images of the Black St. 
Maurice have been catalogued, and even today the veneration of St. Maurice 
remains alive in numerous cathedrals in eastern Germany. 

Sir Morien: Black Knight 

Few documents portray the ethnicity of the Moors in medieval Europe with 
more passion, boldness and clarity than Morien. Morien is a metrical romance 
rendered into English prose from the medieval Dutch version of the Lancelot 
In the Lancelot , it occupies more than five thousand lines and forms the 
ending of the first extant volume of that compilation. Neither the date of the 
original poem or the name of the author is known. The Dutch manuscript is 
dated to the beginning of the fourteenth century. The whole work is a 
translation, and apparently a very faithful translation, of a French original. It 
is quite clear that the Dutch compiler understood his text well, and though 
possibly somewhat fettered by the requirement of turning prose into verse, he 
renders it with uncommon fidelity. 

Morien is the adventure of a splendidly heroic Moorish knight (possibly a 
Christian convert), supposed to have lived during the days of King Arthur and 
the Knights of the Round Table. Morien is described as follows: 

He was all black, even as I tell ye: his head, his body, and his hands were 
all black, saving only his teeth. His shield and his armour were even those 
of a Moor, and black as a raven . 75 

Initially in the adventure, Morien is simply called “the Moor.” He first 
challenges, then battles, and finally wins the unqualified respect and admira- 
tion of Sir Lancelot. In addition, Morien is extremely forthright and articulate. 
Sir Gawain, whose life was saved on the battlefield by Sir Morien, 76 is stated 
to have “harkened, and smiled at the black knight’s speech.” 77 It is noted that 
Morien was as “black as pitch; that was the fashion of his land — Moors are 


Golden Age of the Moor 

black as burnt brands. But in all that men would praise in a knight was he fair 
after his kind. Though he were black, what was he the worse?” 78 And again: 
“his teeth were white as chalk, otherwise was he altogether black.” 79 

Morien, who was black of face and limb” 80 was a great warrior, and it is 
said that: “His blows were so mighty; did a spear fly towards him, to harm 
him, it troubled him no whit, but he smote it in twain as if it were a reed; 
naught might endure before him.” 81 Ultimately, and ironically, Morien came 
to personify all of the finest virtues of the knights of medieval Europe. 

According to Gerald Massey, “Morion is said to have been the architect of 
Stonehenge.... Now, as a negro is still known as a Morien in English, may not 
this indicate that Morien belonged to the black race, the Kushite builders?” 82 
“It should be noted that for a very long period the Dutch language used Moor 
and Moriaan for Black Africans.” 83 Among the Lorma community in modern 
Liberia, the name Moryan is still prominent. 

The Expulsion from Spain and the Dispersal of the Moors 

In Iberia, Christian pressures on the Moors grew irresistible. Finally, in 
1492, Granada, the last important Muslim stronghold in al-Andalus, was 
taken by the soldiers of Ring Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, and the Moors 
were expelled from Spain. In 1496, to appease Isabella, King Manuel of 
Portugal announced a royal decree banishing the Moors from that portion of 
the peninsula. The Spanish king Philip III expelled the remaining Moors by a 
special decree issued in 1609. Fully 3,500,000 Moors, or Moriscos, as their 
descendants were called, left Spain between 1492 and 1610. 

Over a million Moors settled in France. Others moved into Holland. A very 
curious story in the Netherlands is that of Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). By some 
accounts Zwarte Piet, the companion to Sinterklaas (Santa Claus), was a 
Moorish orphan boy whom Sinterklaas adopted and trained as his assistant. 84 

By 1507, there were numerous Moors at the court of King James IV of 
Scotland. One of them was called “Helenor in the Court Accounts, possibly 
Ellen More, who reached Edinburgh by way of the port of Leith and acted a 
principal role in ‘the turnament of the black knight and the black lady,’ in 
which the king of Scotland played the part of the black knight.” 85 There were 
at least two other Black women of the royal court who held positions of some 
status, and they are stated as having had maidservants dress them in expensive 
gowns. 86 There is also a reference, in 1569, to the payment of clothes for 
Nageir the Moor. 87 

In 1596, Queen Elizabeth, highly distressed at the growing Moorish pres- 
ence in England, wrote to the lord mayors of the major cities that “there are of 
late divers blakamores brought into this realm, of which kinde of people there 
are already too manie, considerying howe God hath blessed this land with 
great increase of people of our nation as anie countrie in the world.” Her 

Brunson and Rashidi 

• structions were that “these kind of people should be sent forth from the 
land ” She repeated this later in the year saying that “these kind of people may 
be well spared in this realme, being so populous.” 88 

Appendix: The African Presence in Early Arabia 

A summary account of the Moors in antiquity would be incomplete without 
at least a brief overview of the African presence in early Arabia. The Arabian 
peninsula, first inhabited more than 8,000 years ago, was early populated by 
Blacks. Once dominant over the entire peninsula, the African presence in 
early Arabia is most clearly traceable through the Sabeans. The Sabeans were 
the first Arabians to step firmly within the realm of civilization. The south- 
western corner of the peninsula was their early home. This area, which was 
known to the Romans as Arabia Felix , is today called Yemen. 1 In antiquity this 
region gave rise to a high degree of civilization because of the fertility of the 
soil, the growth of frankincense and myrrh, and the close proximity to the sea 
and consequently its importance in the trade routes. The Sabeans have even 
been called “the Phoenicians of the southern seas.” 

We hear of the Sabeans in the tenth century B.C. through the fabled 
exploits of its semi-legendary queen. This woman had all the qualities of an 
exceptional monarch, and appears to have ruled over a wealthy domain 
embracing parts of both Africa and Arabia. She is known as Bilqis in the 
Koran, Makeda in the Kebra Negast, and the Queen of Sheba in the Bible. The 
three of these documents provide a relatively clear picture of a highly devel- 
oped state distinguished by the pronounced overall status of women. Bilqis/ 
Makeda was not an isolated phenomenon. Several times, in fact, do we hear of 
prominent women in Arabian history; the documents they are mentioned in 
providing no commentary on husbands, consorts, or male relatives. Either 
their deeds or inheritance, perhaps both, enabled them to stand out quite 
singularly. The Sabeans apparently possessed a dedicated matrifocal culture 
and society. 

Around the beginning of the first millennium B.C., the period in which 
Bilqis/Makeda is thought to have lived, we find the emergence of a number of 
large urban centers characterized by elaborate irrigation systems. With the 
domestication of the camel, the southern Arabians could effectively exploit 
the region’s greatest natural resources — frankincense and myrrh — which from 
the earliest historical periods were much prized and sought after. The purest 
and most abundant sources of frankincense and myrrh were in southern 
Arabia and Somalia (Punt?), just across the Red Sea. 2 

We hear of the Sabeans during the reign of the powerful Assyrian king 
Sargon II (721-705 B.C.). In a series of inscriptions detailing Assyrian 
military successes, there is specific mention of: 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Brunson and Rashidi 


Pir’u, the king of Musru, Samsi, the queen of Arabia, It’amra, the 
Sabean, — the(se) are the kings of the seashore and from the desert — I 
received as their presents gold in the form of dust, precious stones, ivory, 
ebony-seeds, all kind of aromatic substances, horses (and) camels . 3 

It was during the seventh century B.C. that the Sabean rulers became 
known as mukarribs (priest-kings). This new form of government may well 
represent the accelerating Semitization of Arabia. The earliest known Sabean 
construction projects, including the mighty Marib Dam (South Arabia’s most 
enduring technical achievement) were initiated during this period. Two 
mukarribs, Sumuhu’alay Yanaf and Yithi’amara Bayyim, cut deep water- 
courses through the solid rock at the south end of the site. The Marib Dam, 
which served its builders and their descendants for more than a thousand 
years, was traditionally believed to have been conceived by Lokman, the sage 
and multi-genius of pre-Islamic South Arabia. 4 In effect, the Dam was an 
earthen ridge stretching slightly more than 1700 feet across a prominent wadi. 
Both sides sloped sharply upward, with the Dam’s upstream side fortified by 
small pebbles established in mortar. The Marib Dam was rebuilt several times 
by piling more earth and stone onto the existing structure. The last recorded 
height of the Marib Dam was slightly more than forty-five feet. 

Although the Marib Dam has now practically disappeared, the huge sluice 
gates built into the rocky walls of the wadi are very well preserved. They 
continue to stand as silent but effective witnesses to the creative genius of the 
South Arabian people. When the periodic but powerful rains did come, the 
mechanism divided the onrushing waters into two channels, which ultimately 
sustained the area’s inhabitants. Such was the force generated by the turbulent 
waters, however, that the Marib Dam was periodically washed out. Recon- 
struction was a formidable task. In one such operation 20,000 workmen were 
employed, some of them coming from hundreds of miles away. 

At some point during this period, perhaps even earlier, there is evidence of 
South Arabian settlement in Ethiopia’s Tigre province. The remains of actual 
South Arabian settlements have been found principally at Yeha, Matara, and 
Haoulti. The resulting co-mingling of Ethiopian and Sabean cultures led to 
the development of the powerful African kingdom of Axum. The earliest 
Ethiopian alphabet is of a South Arabian type. The Axumite script itself is 
apparently a derivative of Sabean. Even the name Abyssinia is thought to 
have been taken from the Habashan, a powerful southwestern Arabian family 
that eventually settled in Africa. From this period Ethiopia became known in 
Arabic scripts as Habashat , and its citizens Habshl This early Ethiopian-Sabean 
era, beginning during the early fifth century B.C., lasted a century. 

As the scepter of South Arabian supremacy passed from Saba’s grasp, and 
also Ma’in (an early rival of Saba and apparently governed by a grand 
council), Qataban (another regional state) emerged as the area’s foremost 
power. Timna, one of the more archaeologically explored sites in South 

Arabia, was Qataban ’s capital and its major urban center. Qataban reached its 
zenith around 60 B.C., and right afterwards went into a period of rapid 
eclipse. The power in South Arabia then shifted back towards Saba, in the 
west, albeit in a lesser form, and Hadramaut in the east, which occupied and 
destroyed Timna. The kingdom of Ausan, a lesser known state, also became 
distinct at this time. Ausan had such extensive commercial ties with Africa, 
that in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (ca. 75) the entire East African 
seaboard is known as the “Ausanitic Coast.” 

Following the rise of Axum, Africans assumed a highly aggressive role in 
Ethiopian-South Arabian relations. Around 195, for example, the Ethiopian 
king Gadara appears as the most dominant figure in South Arabia. A century 
later, the Ethiopian king Azbah dispatched military contingents to South 
Arabia, and afterwards sent Ethiopian soldiers as actual settlers. 

Saba was again occupied by Ethiopia from 335 to 370. The effects of this 
occupation were perhaps more significant than those preceding it, in that this 
one firmly implanted Christianity on South Arabian soil, with the Sabean 
rulers themselves adopting the Christian faith. Christianity had already made 
considerable inroads in Arabia, as is evidenced by the attendance in 325 of six 
i\< Arabian bishops at the historic Council of Nicea. Christianity was to play a 

critical role in the remaining years of pre-Islamic Arabia. Initially, for ex- 
ample, the Christian church suppressed the burning of incense during reli- 
gious rituals by deeming it a pagan tradition, and consequently an impediment 
to Christianity itself. 

After a brief resurgence of Sabean power under the leadership of Malikkarib 
Yuhad’in, South Arabia, which in addition to its Christian population had 
attracted large numbers of Jews, witnessed an increasingly antagonistic rela- 
tionship between the two religions and their adherents. The result was a 
violent period of Christian persecutions and church burnings. This especially 
virulent epoch of Christian martyrdom provoked a strong response in Ethio- 
pia, then headed by Ella Asbeha — known as a formidable advocate of “Chris- 
tian enlightenment.” It is said, in fact, that a total of seven different Christian 
saints lived under Ella Asbeha’s generous patronage. 

In 524, a powerful coalition composed of the Eastern Roman Empire, 
Christian refugees from South Arabia, and the Kingdom of Axum, was 
organized for the specific purpose of invading South Arabia and unseating its 
ruling class. Byzantium supplied the ships, South Arabian refugees the ad- 
vance guard, and the Axumites the bulk of the fighting forces. The coalition 
soon achieved its goals, and in the Book of Himyarites and the Martyrdom of 
Arethius , we read of a decisive battle along the southern Arabian coast where 
the South Arabian king literally lost his head. 

After a period of seven months Ella Asbeha returned to Africa, leaving 
behind him a joint government of the South Arabian nobility and the Ethio- 
pian military. This arrangement lasted until 532 when Abreha, a junior 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Ethiopian military officer, seized the South Arabian throne. The 3,000 man 
Ethiopian army sent to suppress the revolt quickly defected to Abreha. A 
second expeditionary force was rapidly and soundly smashed. Abreha’s 
stunning success was apparently facilitated by the deep class contradictions 
within Ethiopian society (including the military), creating a base from which 
a junior officer could rise to become one of the major personalities in early 
Arabian history. 

Although officially acknowledging Ethiopia’s overall supremacy, Abreha 
worked unceasingly to strengthen South Arabia’s autonomy; helping extend 
its influence into the northern and central portions of the Arabian peninsula. 
After his death in 558, Abreha’s exploits were recorded and embellished in 
Arabian, Byzantine and Ethiopian literature, and no history of pre-Islamic 
Arabia is complete without him. 

One of the most illustrious single figures in pre-Islamic Arabia was Antar 
(ca. 525-615). Graham W. Irwin notes that: 

There has always been a considerable population in Arabia of African 
origin. Perhaps the most famous of these people was Antara. He had an 
Arab father and an Ethiopian mother and became in time the national 
hero of the Arabs. That’s not too strong a statement. There was nobody to 
equal the valor and strength of Antara. He’s rather like King Arthur in the 
English tradition but, in fact, more important, because he was a more 
historical figure. 5 

Before the advent of Islam, southern Arabia already possessed, as we have 
emphasized, large and influential Christian and Jewish communities. She also 
possessed the sacred Kaaba sanctuary, with its black stone, at Makkah. 
Makkah was considered a holy place and the destination of pilgrims long 
before Muhammad. At the same time Allat, the Arabian goddess supreme, 
was worshipped at Ta’if, in Makkah’s immediate proximity. Allat may have 
been regarded as the ultimate reality in female form. She was worshipped in 
the form of an immense uncut block of granite, as firm as the earth she 
represented. The most solemn oaths were sworn to Allat beginning with the 
words, “By the salt, by the fire, and by Allat who is the greatest of all.” 
Another significant Arabian deity, Dhu-al-Shara, was represented by a qua- 
drangular block of black stone. 

It was in this rich religious tradition that the prophet Muhammad, who was 
to unite the whole of Arabia, was born. The seeds of Islam were already ripe 
and Africa was instrumental in its growth. According to tradition, the first 
Muslim killed in battle was Mihdja — a Black man. Another Black man, Bilal, 
was such a pivotal figure in the development of Islam that he has been referred 
to as “a third of the faith.” Many of the earliest Muslim converts were 
Africans, and a number of the Muslim faithful sought refuge in Ethiopia 
because of Arabian hostility to Muhammad’s teachings: 

Brunson and Rashidi 

Five years after the proclamation of Islam (615), a number of Muslims 
sought refuge in neighboring Ethiopia in order to escape the persecutions 
of the Kurayshites in Mecca.... Their sojourn in Ethiopia greatly im- 
pressed these early Muslim migrants and influenced the future develop- 
ment of their new faith. Muslim biographical sources (tabakat) enumer- 
ate not a few Ethiopian converts to Islam who migrated to Medina and 
ranked amongst the Prophet’s companions. They were referred to as the 
‘Ethiopian monks’ (ruhban al-habasha). 6 

It was this relationship which caused Muhammad to declare that, “Who 
brings an Ethiopian man or an Ethiopian woman into his house, brings the 
blessing of God there.” 7 

Another eminent Black man, Ata ibn Abi Rabah (ca. 700), became a mufti 
at Makkah. He was born in southern Arabia of Nubian parents. Eventually he 
moved to Makkah and became a famous teacher and jurisconsult there. In his 
later years his reputation spread far and wide. According to some accounts, 
including the brilliant black writer and historian Uthman Amr ibn-Bahr al- 
Jahiz, the prophet Muhammad himself was partly of African lineage. Accord- 
ing to al-Jahiz, the guardian of the sacred Kaaba— AM al-Muttalib, “fathered 
ten Lords, Black as the night and magnificent.” One of these men was 
Abdallah, the father of Muhammad. 8 


1. Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1970), 
555. “ Mauretania is the ancient name of the northwestern angle of the African 
continent, and under the Roman empire also of a large territory eastward of that angle. 
The word Mauretania or Maurusia as it was called by the Greek writers, signifies the 
land of the Mauri which is still retained in the modern Morocco. Since 1904 the 
French have used the term to apply to the territory north of the lower Senegal under 
French protection.” Glora M. Wysner, The Kabyle People (n.p.: Wysner, 1945), 18. 

2. Frank M. Snowden, Before Color Prejudice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Uni- 
versity Press, 1983), 9. 

3. Procopius, History of the Wars, bk. 4, trans. and ed. H.B. Dawing (Cambridge, 
MA: Harvard University Press, 1954), x. 13. 

4. J.B. Friedman, The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art (Cambridge, MA: Harvard 
University Press, 1981), 89. 

5. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, vol. 2 (London: Ox- 
ford University Press, 1979), 3244. 

6. Paul Edwards and James Walvin, “Africans in Britain, 1500-1800,” in The 
African Diaspora: Interpretive Essays, eds. Martin L. Kilson and Robert I. Rotberg 
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 172-73. “An Irish Gaelic saga of 
the 900s (copied in 1643) states that Danish-Irish raiders attacked Spain and Mauritania 
in the 800s. From the latter place they ‘carried off a great host of them as captives to 
Erin, and these are the blue men [of Erin], for Mauri is the same as black man, and 
Mauritania is the same as blackness.... Long indeed were these blue men in Erin.’ ” 
Jack D. Forbes, Black Africans and Native Americans (New York: Basil Blackwell, 
1988), 68. 



Golden Age of the Moor Brunson and Rashidi 

7. “A rich source of information about medieval Spain is the illuminations which 
illustrate the Cantigas, a collection of narrative didactic-religious poems, which re- 
count the miracles of the Virgin Mary. Written in Portuguese by Alfonso the Wise, 
king of Christian Spain, these poems and their miniatures are a veritable sociological 
study of thirteenth-century Spain. The illustrations portray individuals of all strata of 
Spanish society from Christian kings and Moorish knights to humble peasants and 
pregnant women. The artistic representation reflects the social reality, for Spain in the 
thirteenth century was an ethnic potpourri, blending the culture of the Jews and the 
Moors of Al-Andalus (southern Spain) with that of the Latinized and Christianized 
kingdoms of the north.” Miriam DeCosta, “The Portrayal of Blacks in a Spanish 
Medieval Manuscript,” Negro History Bulletin 37, No. 1 (1973), 194. 

8. “Christian thought had come to equate sin and death with the color black, and 
concluded that evil and the devil’s works were associated with blackness. To Chris- 
tians, the Muslim invaders were infidels, and the black Moors in their ranks were 
fearsome symbols of living evil. Thus, in art of the period illustrating tales of Christ 
and the saints, the executioners and torturers are often depicted as Blacks.” The Image 
of the Black in Western Art: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service 
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980), 5. 

9. Miriam DeCosta, “The Portrayal of Blacks in a Spanish Medieval Manuscript,” 
Negro History Bulletin 37, No. 1 (1973), 194. 

10. Colin Smith, Christians and Moors in Spain , Volume 1: 711-1150 
(Warminister: Aris & Phillips, 1988), 55. 

11. Jean Devisse, “The Appeal to the Ethiopian,” Image of the Black in Western 
Art, vol. 2, pt. 2, trans. W.G. Ryan. (New York: Morrow, 1979), 88. 

12. Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the 
English Nation, vol. 4 (Glasgow: James MacLehose & Sons, 1905), 143. “By the 
sixteenth century the English and Scots were referring to the people of Africa as 
Moors ...” Forbes, 83. 

13. Elmer E. Stoll, Othello, An Historical and Comparative Study (Minneapolis: 
University of Minnesota, 1915), 46. 

14. “The term more and its equivalents were widely used in late-medieval and 
early modern Europe. According to Simonet in his study of the language spoken by 
the Mozarabes (Christian Spaniards under Muslim rule before 1492) mauro meant negro 
and corresponded to Castillian usage in which moro was applied to horses whose 
color was negro. The corresponding more (French), maurus (Hispanic Latin), and moro 
(Valencian) were derived from Latin morus {negro) and ultimately from a Greek word 
meaning oscuro. Similarly, Mozarabic mauro (negro) was related to moro (Spanish and 
Italian), mouro (Portuguese and Gallego), mor (Provencal), maure and more (French), 
meaning ‘Moro; negro; hombre de color’. These forms stemmed from Latin maurus 
(also from Greek), ‘for the dark ( oscuro ) color of the Mauritanos o’ Moros (peoples of 
northwest Africa)’. 

The use of moor in the Dutch language will be discussed below, but here it is 
useful to note that the medieval Dutch understood by that term a very dark color, so 
that the color of coal was compared with that of a moor. Also it was said: ‘scijnt swaert 
ghelike den more,’ “he is as black as a moor.” Forbes, 67-68. 

15 . Thomas Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1979), 14-15. “The Maghriban Arab historian and soci- 
ologist of the fourteenth century, Ibn Khaldun, distinguished three major groups 
amongst the Berbers: Zanata, Sanhaga, and Masmuda.... The Zanata Berbers, whose 
original home was in Tripolitania and southern Tunisia, were predominately nomadic 
during the first centuries after the Arab conquest of the Maghrib. They cooperated 
with the Arab invaders more than the other major Berber groups, and consequently 

they have become more Arabized. Their close association with the Arabian tribes that 
invaded the Maghrib in the eleventh century, especially in the conflict for power at the 
end of the Almohad period, made some of the Zanata tribes claim Arabian descent. 
The dialect of the Zanata, Znatiyya, is now spoken on the eastern fringes of the desert, 
in small islands in the central Maghrib, in the Rif, and in the northern parts of the 
Middle Atlas. The Sanhaga are as widely dispersed in the Maghrib as are the Zanata. 
They are split into two main branches: the Kabylia Berbers, who are sedentary, and 
the nomadic Zanaga (the name being a corruption of ‘Sanhaja’), whose traditional 
home has been the western Sahara from Senegal to the southern parts of the Anti- 
Atlas. The Masmuda are the sedentary Berbers of Morocco, whose original home is in 
the western part of the High Atlas. They are now also spread over the area from the 
surroundings of Rabat to Azru (Azrew) and Khanifra.” Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, A His- 
tory of the Maghrib (London: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 8-9. 

“Gsell points out that in Maghreb the term Berber is not racial dating from an 
earlier period, that it is simply tfte Latin word barbarus, or as was said in Roman 
Africa, barbar. Before the invasion of the Arabs it designated the indigenous popula- 
tion which remained resistant to the Latin civilization. 

Ibn Khaldoun says that when Ifricas invaded Maghreb and saw the people and 
heard them speaking a language in which the varieties and the dialects struck his 
attention, he gave way to his astonishment by crying, ‘What berbera is yours!’ Thus 
they were called Berbers. The word berbera signifying in Arabic, ‘a mixture of un- 
intelligible cries.’ 

Ancient historians and geographers mention the Berbers under various names: the 
Nasamones and Psylli in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania; the Garamantes leading a 
nomadic life in the Sahara, the Makyles and Maxices in the Tunisian Sahel, the 
Musulani and the Numidians in the eastern Maghreb, the Gaetuli on the borders of the 
desert and the high tablelands, and lastly the Mauri occupying central and western 
Maghreb.” Wysner, 19. 

Cheikh Anta Diop offers another perspective on the Berbers. He notes that, “The 
confusion over the term Berber must be pointed out ... The root of this word, used 
during Antiquity, was probably of Negro rather than Indo-European origin. In reality, 
it is an onomatopoeic repetition of the root Ber. This kind of intensification of a root is 
general in African languages, especially in Egyptian.” Cheikh Anta Diop, African Origin 
of Civilization, ed. and trans. Mercer Cook (Westport: Lawrence Hill, 1974), 55. 

16. Lloyd Thompson, Romans and Blacks (Norman: University of Oklahoma 
Press, 1989), 63. 

17. Harold A. MacMichael, A History of the Arabs in the Sudan, vol. 1 (New York: 
Barnes & Noble, 1967), 32. 

18. F. DeMedeiros, “The Peoples of the Sudan: Population Movements,” in 
UNESCO General History of Africa. Vol. 3: Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh 
Century, ed. M. El Fasi (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 125. 

19. Quoted by E.W. Bovill, The Golden Trade of the Moors, 2d ed. (London: Oxford 
University Press, 1970), 48. Tenth century Arab geographer Ibn Hawkal was a native 
of Baghdad. He spent twenty-five years in travel, and claimed that his Book of Ways 
and Provinces contained all that had “ever made geography of interest to either 
princes or peoples.” He visited Audoghast and Kumbi, the capital of Ghana, and saw 
the Niger flowing eastwards, which led him to believe it to be the Nile of Egypt. He 
may have been the first Arab writer to voice an unmistakable contempt for Black 
people, of whom he wrote: “I have not described the country of the African blacks and 
the other peoples of the torrid zone: because naturally loving wisdom, ingenuity, 
religion, justice and regular government, how could I notice such people as these, or 
magnify them by inserting an account of their countries.” Bovill, 61-62. 



Golden Age of the Moor Brunson and Rashidi 

The Tunisian born Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), “considered the greatest of Arab 
historians” expressed a similar disdain for Black people. In his Muqaddimah (An In- 
troduction to History), in which he treated history as a science and outlined a 
philosophy of history, Ibn Khaldun wrote that, “We have seen that Negroes are in 
general characterized by levity, excitability, and great emotionalism. They are found 
eager to dance whenever they hear a melody. They are everywhere described as 
stupid.” Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, trans. Franz Rosenthal (Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1967), 63. 

20. Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle Ages (London: Oxford Uni- 
versity Press, 1990), 124. “Ham was the middle child of Noah’s three sons, Shem, 
Ham, and Japheth. The name ‘Ham’ means ‘hot,’ ‘heat,’ and by application, ‘black 
...’ The name ‘Ham’ is patronymic of his descendants.” Walter Arthur McCray, The 
Black Presence in the Bible, vol. 1 (Chicago: Black Light Fellowship, 1990), 54. The 
four sons of Ham were: Cush (Ethiopia), Mizraim (Egypt), Phut (Libya), and Canaan 
(Phoenicia). Genesis 10:6. 

21. ‘Uthman ‘Amr ibn-Bahr al-Jahiz, The Book of the Glory of the Black Race 
(Los Angeles: Preston, 1981), 55-56. Al-Jahiz was born in Basra, Iraq in 778. A 
brilliant scholar and a prolific writer, he lived during an era marked by a visible 
increase in racial hostility directed by Arabs against Blacks in the Islamic world. One 
of the most extreme reactions to this policy was the massive slave insurrection 
launched in 868 (the year of al-Jahiz’s death), known in Arab histories as the Revolt of 
the Blacks. For a concise overview, see The Life and Works ofJahiz, trans. and ed. 
Charles Pellat (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969). For a more African- 
centric perspective on al-Jahiz, see J.A. Rogers’ World's Great Men of Color, vol. 1 
(New York: Collier-Macmillan, 1972). 

22. Lewis, 248. 

23. H.T. Norris, The Berbers in Arabic Literature (London: Longman, 1982), 20. 

24. Quoted by Norris, 20. 

25. Oxford English Dictionary, 2639. 

26. Smith, viii. 

27. D.M. Dunlop, Arab Civilization to 1500 A. D. (New York: Praeger, 1971), 271. 

28. Oxford English Dictionary, 2639. 

29. “The Kaaba was reputed to have been constructed by Ishmael, son of Abraham 
and Hagar the Egyptian (a Negro woman), historical ancestor of Mohammed, according 
to all Arab historians.” Diop, 127. “In Egypt he [Abraham] had married a Negro 
woman, Hagar, mother of Ishmael, the Biblical ancestor of the second Semitic branch, 
the Arabs. Ishmael was said to be the historical ancestor of Mohammed.” Diop, 136. 

The name Semite comes from Shem, the eldest of the three sons of Noah. The 
Bible identifies Shem as the father of Ashur, Aram and Heber, and alleged ancestor of 
the Arabs, Assyrians, Aramaeans and Hebrews. In Greek and Latin versions of the 
Bible, Shem becomes Sem, since neither Greek nor Latin has any way of representing 
the initial sound of the Hebrew name. The Bible tells us that everyone on earth was 
drowned except for Noah and his family and that all mankind are descended from his 
three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The lines of descent from the three of them, 
described in the tenth chapter of Genesis, represent a kind of mythologized ethnology, 
enumerating the peoples of antiquity whose names were known when this chapter was 
written, and setting forth the relationships between them. 

The adjective Semitic is thought to have been introduced in 1780 by a German 
scholar, August Ludwig Schlozer, to qualify a series of closely related languages. 
According to Schlozer, “The Syrians, Babylonians, Hebrews and Arabs ... spoke this 
language, which I might call the Semitic.” Eventually the people who spoke these 
languages were called Semites. As the word race is used at the present time, the 

Semites were never a race. The earliest accounts and pictures show them to have been 
of diverse racial origins and types. Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites (New York: 
W.W. Norton, 1986), 43-45. 

30. Jean-Paul Clebert, The Gypsies (New York: Penguin, 1970), 69-70. 

31. Clebert. 

32. J. Devisse, “From the Demonic Threat to the Incarnation of Sainthood,” The 
Image of the Black in Western Art. Vol. 2, From the Early Christian Era to 'The Age of 
Discovery. ’ Pt. 1, trans. W.G. Ryan (New York: Morrow, 1979), 88. 

33. Dorothee Mitlitzki, The Matter of Araby in Medieval England (New Haven: 
Yale University Press, 1977), 193. 

34. Mitlitzki. 

35. H.T. Norris, The Berbers in Arabic Literature (London: Longman, 1982), 14. 

36. The Song of Roland, trans. F. Goldin (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 99. 

37. The Song of Roland (New York: Heritage Press, 1938), 58. 

38. The Song of Roland, tran^F. Goldin (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 107. 

39. Devisse, 88. 

40. 116. 

41. Mitlitzki, 194. 

42. It is interesting to note that while perhaps not Saracens, “The legends and the 
history of the Scottish Highlands are both witnesses to the existence of purely black 
people. The Welsh traditions bear a similar testimony. The hero Peredur, Son of 
Evrawc, discovers a company of ‘bald, swarthy youths,’ sitting at the hall-door of a 
black giant, playing at chess. This giant is styled the Black Oppressor, and seems to 
have been of the same genial nature as the ‘black knight’ of Ashton-under-Lyne. He 
very frankly informs Peredur that ‘for this reason I am called the Black Oppressor, 
that there is not a single man around me whom I have not oppressed; and justice have 
I done unto none.’ 

Kynon, the son of Clydno, encountered another of those black people, a black giant 
with an iron club, — and such giants swarm throughout the Welsh tales. ‘The Mabinogion 
(says Mr. Wirt Sikes) ... are full of black men, usually giants, always terrible to 
encounter.” David MacRitchie, Ancient and Modern Britons, vol. 1 (London: Kegan 
Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1884), 153-54. 

43. Orkneyinga Saga, trans. H. Palsson (London: Hogarth Press, 1978), 157. 

44. 157. 

45. Paul Edwards and James Walvin, Black Personalities in the Era of the Slave 
Trade (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983), 4. 

46. B.H. Warmington, “The Carthaginian Period,” in UNESCO General History 
of Africa. Vol. 2: Ancient Civilizations of Africa, ed. G. Mokhtar (Berkeley: Univer- 
sity of California Press, 1981), 462. 

47. Livy, The War with Hannibal, trans. Aubrey De Selincourt (Harmondsworth: 
Penguin, 1965), 45; see also Wayne B. Chandler, “Hannibal: Nemesis of Rome,” in 
Great Black Leaders, ed. Ivan Van Sertima (New Brunswick: Journal of African 
Civilizations, 1987), 282-321. 

48. B.H. Warmington, Carthage (New York: Praeger, 1969), 46. 

49. Graham Webster, The Roman Imperial Army of the First and Second Centu- 
ries (London: Adams & Charles Black, 1969), 46; see also Sallust, Jugurthine War, 
trans. S.A. Handford (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965). 

Dacia was a Roman province north of the Danube, roughly present-day Romania. 
It was chiefly valuable for its gold and silver mines, which had probably been used 
since prehistoric times. The main cities of the province were Sarmizegethusa and 

50. F.H. Eterovich and C. Spalatin, eds, “The Roman Colonization of Moors in 



Golden Age of the Moor Brunson and Rashidi 

the Balkans and in Other Regions of Europe,” in Croatia: Land, People, Culture, vol. 
2. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970): 384. 

51. M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), 390. 

52. A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire 284-602, vol. 1 (Norman: Univer- 
sity of Oklahoma Press, 1963), 643. “Numidia was the name given in ancient times to 
a tract of country in the north of Africa extending along the Mediterranean from the 
confines of Mauretania to those of the Roman province of Africa. Numidia comes 
from the word nomad and was given by the Greeks. The limits of Numidia varied at 
different epochs of North African history. Finally under the new organization of the 
empire by Diocletian, Numidia became one of the seven provinces of Africa, being 
known as Numidia Cirtensis, closely corresponding in extent to the modem French 
province of Constantine.” Wysner, 18. 

53. Will Durant, Caesar and Christ : A History of Roman Civilization and of 
Christianity from their Beginnings toA.D . 325 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1944), 

54. Abdallah Laroui, The History of the Maghrib, trans. Ralph Manheim (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1977), 17. 

55. W.T. Arnold, Studies of Roman Imperialism (Manchester: Manchester Uni- 
versity Press, 1906), 80. 

56. Procopius, 321. 

57. Snowden, 8. 

58. Quoted by Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol 
3: 1185 A.D.-1453 A.D. (New York: Modern Library, n.d.), 195. The Visigoths were 
a major division of the Goths — one of the chief groups of ancient Germans. Separated 
from the Ostrogoths (East Goths) around 376 C.E., the Visigoths moved into Roman 
territory under pressure from the Huns. Eventually the Visigoths expanded north to 
the Loire, made Toulouse their capital, and seized the lands of the Vandals (another 
Germanic group) in Spain. They became Christians and gradually merged with the 
Spanish population. 

59. Abdulwahid Dhanun Taha, The Muslim Conquest and Settlement of North 
Africa and Spain (London: Routledge, 1989), 86. 

60. Norris, 63. 

61. Taha, 103. 

62. Bernard Lewis, Islam, Vol 1: Politics and War (New York: Walker, 1974), 
110 - 12 . 

63. Smith, 19. 

64. A.R. Nykl, Hispano- Arabic Poetry (Baltimore: J.R. First, 1946), 318. 

65. Lewis, 91. 

66. Ferdinand Gregorovious, History of Rome, Vol 3: 800-1002 A.D. (London: 
George Bell, 1903), 66. 

67. Norman Daniel, The Arabs and Medieval Europe (London: Longman, 1979), 

68. Paul Kaplan, The Rise of the Black Magus in Western Art (Ann Arbor: Uni- 
versity of Michigan Press, 1985), 10. 

69. Bernard Lewis, Islam, Vol 2: Religion and Society (New York: Walker, 1974), 

70. Norris, 106. 

71. H.T. Norris, Saharan Myth and Saga (London: Clarendon Press, 1972), 65. 

72. DeCosta, 194. 

73. Norris, 135. 

74. Gude Suckale-Redlefsen, The Black Saint Maurice (Houston: Menil Founda- 
tion, 1987), 19. 

75. Morien, trans. Jessie L. Weston (London: Nutt, 1901), 29. 

76. “How warmly Sir Gawain thanked Morien, that he had saved his life that day 
on the field, where he had of a surety been slain had not God and that good knight 
come to his aid.” Morien, 109. 

77. 35. 

78. 38-39. 

79. 41. 

80. 98. 

81. 31. 

82. Gerald Massey, A Book of the Beginnings, vol. 1 (1881; rpt. Secaucus: Uni- 
versity Books, 1974), 218. 

83. Forbes, 79. 

84. Allison Blakely, “Santa’s Black Aide: A Glimpse at Race Relations in Holland,” 
New Directions (Jan 1980), 26. 

85. Paul Edwards and James Walvin, “Africans in Britain, 1500-1800,” in The 
African Diaspora, eds. Martin L. Kilson and Robert I. Rotberg (Cambridge, MA: 
Harvard University Press, 1976), 173. “The spread of maurus to the north can also be 
seen in Scotland where, in 1504—5, several references to ‘More lasses’ (Moor lassies) 
are found. At that time a child was born, referred to as ‘Moris barne’ (a maurus born). 
Late in 1512-13, one finds ‘Elen More’ and ‘Blak Elene’ used (one assumes) 
interchangeably. By 1527 ‘Helenor, the black moir’ is referred to, while in 1567-9 
there are references to ‘Nageir the More.’ ” Forbes, 67-68. 

86. “It is possible to go further back than the middle of the sixteenth century and 
find historical documents to prove that even as early as 1501 there were blacks at court 
in Scotland. That year one of the King’s minstrels was “Peter the Moryen or Moor,” 
and three years later two blackamoor girls arrived and were educated at court where 
they waited on the queen. They were baptized Elen and Margaret, and in June, 1507, a 
tournament was held in honor of the Queen’s black lady, Elen Moore “which was 
conducted with great splendour.” Edward Scobie, Black Britannia (Chicago: Johnson, 
1972), 8. 

87. 8. 

88. Even Britain’s “Morris” dances are thought to have derived from Moorish 
models. “The so-called Morris Dance which sometimes accompanies the play has a 
much deeper meaning still to be elucidated.... Such a dance is not the exclusive 
property of any one nation, and therefore when Crusading armies met it among their 
allies, and their enemies, they might attach the name of ‘Morris’ and ‘Morisco’ to it. 
Probably, too, when attempting to dramatize current events, they would black their 
faces and pretend to be Moors. This may explain the curious Morris Dances of Bacus 
in Lancashire and Provence, where the dancers wear half coconuts on their knees, 
waists, and hands, and clap out intricate rhythms as they dance energetically, in much 
the same way that young men in certain Turki tribal rituals slap themselves with their 
bare hands. The use of the coconut reinforces the suggestion that this dance was a 
copy of Moorish antics, for the coconut is of African origin, just as the floating ostrich 
plumes of the Basque Morris dancers also originated in Africa.” J. Lawson, European 
Folk Dance, rev. ed. (London: Pitman, 1955), 14-15. 

David MacRitchie, author of Ancient and Modern Britons, was convinced that the 
Moors were Black people who played an important role in the early settlement of 
Britain: “For although it may not be easy to trace their route hither, and the date of 
their arrival, a branch of this family did inhabit Britain, and are not only known as 



Golden Age of the Moor Brunson and Rashidi 

Mauri and Moors, but also as Moravienses, Morienses, Murray-men, and people of 
Moray or Moravia” MacRitchie, 50. 

“The 'Moors’ are still largely represented throughout the British Islands; although 
of course the crossing and re-crossing of thirty generations, while increasing the 
number of descendants, has lessened the intensity of the resemblance to the ancestral 
stock. But the swarthy hue asserts itself still, though in a modified degree. Last 
century, when Martin described the Western Islands of Scotland, he remarked that the 
complexion of the natives of Skye was 'for the most part black,’ of the natives of Jura 
he said that they were 'generally black of complexion,’ and of Arran that they were 
'generally brown, and some of black complexion.’ ” MacRitchie, 122. 

Notes to Appendix: The African Presence in Early Arabia 

1. As long ago as 1871 Francois Lenormant (1837-1883), a prominent French 
archaeologist and member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, stressed 
that, “We may perceive the remembrance of a powerful empire founded by the 
Cushites in very earlier ages, apparently including the whole of Arabia Felix, and not 
only Yemen proper. 

Circumcision established in Yemen from remotest antiquity, and several other 
pagan usages, still practiced in our days, appear to be of Cushite origin. Lokman, the 
mythical representative of Adite wisdom, resembles Aesop, whose name ... seems to 
indicate an Ethiopian origin.” Francois Lenormant, A Manual of the Ancient History 
of the East to the Commencement of the Median Wars, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: J.B. 
Lippincott, 1871), 296. 

2. Both frankincense and myrrh occupied tremendously vital places in the 
pharaonic civilization of Africa’s Nile Valley. Frankincense, for example, while 
extensively utilized for its perfume-like fragrance, was equally valued for its medici- 
nal properties. It was used both in the stoppage of bleeding and as an antidote for 
poisons. Myrrh was employed for cosmetics and ointments, and formed an essential 
element in the mummification process. 

3. James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near East (London: Oxford University Press, 
1958), 196-97. 

4. “Lokman is the most celebrated sage of the East. So great is his fame there that 
there is still a saying, ‘To teach wisdom to Lokman,’ which is the equivalent of 
'Carrying coals to Newcastle.’ In Islam his fame equals that of Solomon in the 
Christian-Jewish world. Mohammed quoted him as an authority and named the thirty- 
first chapter of the Koran after him. 

Much that is said about him is legendary. The Arabs say that he lived about 1100 
B.C., was a coal-black Ethiopian with woolly hair, and was the son of Baura, who was 
a son or a grandson of a sister of Job. Lokman is often confused with Aesop, who was 
also a Negro, and who, it appears, adapted some of Lokman ’s fables to his own use.” 
J.A. Rogers, World’s Great Men of Color, vol. 1 (New York: Collier, 1972), 67. 

5. Graham W. Irwin, “African Bondage in Asian Lands,” African Presence in 
Early Asia, eds. Runoko Rashidi and Ivan Van Sertima (New Brunswick: Journal of 
African Civilizations, 1988), 146. “The name of ’Antarah ibn-Shaddad al’Absi (ca. 
525-615), evidently a Christian, has lived through the ages as the paragon of Bedouin 
heroism and chivalry. Knight, poet, warrior and lover, Antarah exemplified in his life 
those traits greatly esteemed by the sons of the desert. His deeds of valor as well as his 
love episodes with his lady, ’Ablah, whose name he immortalized in his famous 
Mu’allaqah, have become a part of the literary heritage of the Arabic-speaking 
world.” Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 6th ed. (London: Macmillan, 1956), 96. 

“His fame as a literary character transcends that of the modern authors of black 

blood, such as Pushkin in Russia, and the elder Dumas in France. After his death the 
fame of Antar’s deeds spread across the Arabian Peninsula and throughout the 
Mohammedan world. In time these deeds, like Homeric legends, were recorded in a 
literary form and therein is found that Antar, ... has become the Achilles of the 
Arabian Iliad, a work known to this day after being a source of wonder and admiration 
for hundreds of years to millions of Mohammedans as the 'Romance of Antar.’ The 
book, therefore, ranks among the great national classics like the ‘Shah-nameh’ of 
Persia, and the 'Nibelungen-Lied’ of Germany. Antar was the father of knighthood. 
He was the champion of the weak and oppressed, the protector of women, the 
impassioned lover-poet, the irresistible and magnanimous knight. 'Antar’ in its present 
form probably preceded the romances of chivalry so common in the twelfth century in 
Italy and France.” A.O. Stafford, “Antar, The Arabian Negro Warrior, Poet and 
Hero,” Journal of Negro History 1, No. 2 (1916), 155. 

6. Y. Talib, “The African Diapora in Asia,” in UNESCO General History of Af- 
rica. Vol. 3, Africa from the Seventft to the Eleventh Century, ed. M. El Fasi (Berkeley : 
University of California Press, 1988), 710—11. 

7. E. Cerulli “Ethiopia’s Relations with the Muslim World,” in UNESCO Gen- 
eral History of Africa. Vol. 3, Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century, ed. M. 
El Fasi (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 576 

8. ’Uthman ’Amr ibn-Bahr al-Jahiz, The Book of the Glory of the Black Race, 
trans. Vincent J. Cornell (Los Angeles: Preston, 1981), 50. 


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John G. Jackson 

Compiled, with an Appendix, by Runoko Rashidi 

The Moors were people who lived in Morocco. That’s the reason they 
called it that. The word Moor meant Black. It meant Black people. In ancient 
times all Africans were called Ethiopians or Kushites. And in the Middle Ages 
the Africans were called Moors 1 .' The word Moor literally means Black, so the 
Moorish people were the Black people. In medieval times the name Moor was 
not restricted to the inhabitants of Morocco, but it was customary to refer to 
all Africans as Moors. The highly ambiguous word Negro had not yet been 
invented. This word Negro came up when the slave-trade came in. In other 
words, you have a lot of little fish floating around in the ocean. They’re little 
fish and they have various names. But if you put them in cans they all become 
sardines. So when they put the Black man in slavery he became a Negro. We 
know from the contemporary records which have come down to us from the 
era of medieval Moorish supremacy that the Moors did not consider themselves 
as white men . 1 

The Moors in North Africa were converted to Islam during the seventh 
century. An army of twelve thousand Africans was recruited and placed under 
the leadership of the Moorish general, Tarik. Tarif was an officer in Tarik’s 
army. He led the first expedition to Spain to find out what the Moors had to 
face. The army landed at a place later named Tarifa in honor of Tarif. He set 
up a custom house there. He found out that they had no serious opposition to 
face in Spain. Tarif and his small detachment plundered Algericas and other 
towns and returned to Africa with their boats loaded with spoils. 

There was a kingdom of the Visigoths — the western Goths. There was a 
Greek governor in a place called Ceuta on the African coast. The story is that 
Count Julian (the Greek governor) sent his daughter on a vacation to visit 
King Roderick and he raped his daughter. Julian persuaded the Moors to 
invade Spain because he said it was unprotected. All they had to do was walk 
in and take it. 

General Tarik and his army landed on an isthmus between an encarpment, 
then called Mons Calpe, and the continent of Europe. After that, Mons Calpe 

This essay was compiled from an interview with John G. Jackson in September 1990. 
Quotes from the interview are combined with excerpts from John G. Jackson’s, 
Introduction to African Civilizations. It is dedicated to Willis N. Huggins, J.C. deGraft- 
Johnson and J.A. Rogers, on whom notes are given at the end of the piece. 


Golden Age of the Moor 



was renamed Gebel Tarik - The Hill of Tarik - or, as we now call it, Gibraltar. 
Tank’s African army captured a number of Spanish towns near Gibraltar, 
among them, Heraclea. Then he advanced northward into Andalusia. The 
Visigothic King Roderick learned of the invasion and raised an immense 
army for the defense of Spain. The two opposing armies met in battle near 
Xeres not far from the Gaudalete River. 

After overrunning most of the Iberian Peninsula, the Moors pushed on 
through to France, where they were repulsed with heavy losses at Poitiers by 
the Franks under Charles Martel — the grandfather of Charlemagne. After this 
significant setback, they retired into Spain and there laid the foundations of a 
new civilization. The country was immeasurably enriched by their labors. 
They, for instance, introduced the silk industry into Spain. In the field of 
agriculture they were highly skilled, and introduced rice, sugar cane, dates, 
ginger, cotton, lemons, and strawberries into the country. 

The Spanish city of Cordova, in the tenth century, was very much like a 
modem city. Its streets were well paved and there were raised sidewalks for 
pedestrians. At night, one could walk for ten miles by the light of lamps, 
flanked by an uninterrupted extent of buildings. This was hundreds of years 
before there was a paved street in Paris, France, or a street lamp in London, 
England. The population of Cordova was over a million. There were 200,000 
homes, 800 public schools, and many colleges and universities. Cordova 
possessed 10,000 palaces of the wealthy, besides many royal palaces, sur- 
rounded by beautiful gardens. There were even 5,000 mills in Cordova at a 
hme when there was not even one in the rest of Europe. There were also 900 
public baths, besides a large number of private ones, at a time when the rest of 
Europe considered bathing as extremely sinful, and to be avoided as much as 
possible. Cordova was also graced by a system of over 4,000 public markets. 

Inf ih S UC ? C ° rd0Va ’ an ° ther grand structure ’ had a scarlet and gold 
roof, with 1,000 columns of porphyry and marble. It was lit by more than 200 

silver chandeliers, containing more than 1,000 silver lamps burning perfumed 

The marvellous cities of Toledo, Seville, and Granada were rivals of 
or ova m respect to grandeur and magnificence. According to De Fontenelle: 

of panada, a small black people, burned by the sun, full of 

festival! a re ’ 3 W3y a m ° Ve ’ Wdting Verse ’ fond of music > arranging 
Festivals, dances, and tournaments every day . 2 B 

whOeTn 3 !? WaS universal in Moorish Spain, being given to the most humble, 
an , f V hnSt,an Eur °P e ninet y- ni ne percent of the people were illiterate, 
ven mgs could neither read nor write. You had Moorish women who 
were doctors and lawyers and professors. Jewish scholars studied under the 
Moors, and then went to England and set up a scientific school at what later 

came to be Oxford University. The Moors furnished the knowledge and the 
Jews collected it. The Jews were intermediaries. The Moors and Christians 
were fighting each other and the Jews formed a bridge between them. 

The Omayyad dynasty survived in Spain until 1031, but it was obviously in 
a state of decline by the year 1000. Abd-er-Rahman III, one of the greatest of 
the Moorish monarchs, reigned for fifty years (911-961), and both stabilized 
and expanded the territories of his dominions. The Moors were a very tolerant 
people. The Moorish rulers lived in sumptuous palaces, while the monarchs of 
Germany, France, and England dwelt in big barns, with no windows and no 
chimneys, and with only a hole in the roof for the exit of smoke. 

In the year 1048, the Emir Yahia of Morocco visited Mecca. Here he met a 
religious reformer, Ibn Yasin, whom he persuaded to return home with him to 
teach his doctrines to the Moors. Ibn Yasin with a few followers set his 
headquarters on an island in the Senegal River in West Africa. The new 
movement proved to be popular, and the leader named his disciples Morabites 
(Champions of the Faith), which in time was changed to Almoravides. A 
crusade was urged by Ibn Yasin, the purpose of which was to maintain the 
truth, to repress injustice, and to abolish all taxes not based on law. The 
leadership of the Almoravides, which started in Upper Senegal, was assumed 
by the Emir Yahia. 

After consolidating his position in southwestern Morocco, Yahia died in 
1056, and was succeeded by his brother, Abu Bekr, who led his armies to 
further victories. Abu Bekr retired to southern Morocco and turned over the 
northern part of the country to his cousin, Yusuf Tachefin, who soon became 
the master of northwest Africa. 

In the year 1062 Yusuf laid the foundation of the town of Morocco with 
his own hands. . . . By the year 1082 he had long been the supreme ruler of 
that portion of the world. . . . When therefore he consented to cross over to 
Spain, and in the course of time drove back the Christians and established 
once more a supreme Sultan upon the throne of Andalusia, his conquest 
and the dynasty which he founded must be regarded as an African 
conquest and an African dynasty. 3 

When Yusuf I crossed over to Europe, he was in command of an army of 
15,000 men, armed mainly with swords and poinards; but his shock troops 
were a 6,000-strong detachment of Senegalese cavalrymen mounted on white 
Arabian horses, said to be fleet as the wind. Once in Spain, Yusuf was met by 
the chief rulers of Spain: the kings of Almeria, Badajoz, Granada, and Seville. 
The Moorish army, only 10,000 men in all, joined the African forces of Yusuf 
and marched northward to join battle with King Alphonso VI, who headed a 
Christian army of 70,000. The opposing armies battled each other at Zalakah 
in October, 1086, and at first the Christian hosts seemed to be winning. A1 
Mutammed, leading the Moslems, had three horses killed under him and, 




Golden Age of the Moor 

though wounded, kept his men in line until Yusuf came up with reinforcements 
and attacked the Christians from the rear. 

In the early part of the twelfth century another religious reformer, calling 
himself the Mahdi, appeared in Morocco. He named his followers Almohades 
(Unitarians). After the conquest of Morocco in 1 147, when the last Almoravide 
king was dethroned and executed, the Almohades seized the reins of govern- 
ment, and then invaded Europe. By 1150 they had defeated the Christian 
armies of Spain and placed an Almohade sovereign on the throne of Moorish 
Spain, and, thus, for the second time a purely African dynasty ruled over the 
most civilized portion of the Iberian Peninsula. 

Under a great line of Almohade kings, the splendor of Moorish Spain was 
not only maintained but enhanced; for they erected they Castile of Gibraltar in 
1160 and began the building of the great Mosque of Seville in 1183. The 
Geralda of Seville was originally an astronomical observatory constructed in 
1196 under the supervision of the mathematician Geber. The Almoravides 
had established a Spanish court in Seville. The Almohades set up an African 
court in the City of Morocco; and Ibn Said in the thirteenth century describes 
Morocco as the “Baghdad of the West,” and says that under the early Almohade 
rulers the city enjoyed its greatest prosperity. 

In the early part of thirteenth century, the Moorish power in Spain began to 
decline. Unfortunately, the Moslems, due to religious and political differences, 
began to split into factions and wage war among themselves. At the same time 
the Christians of Europe, having absorbed the science and culture of Moors, 
which enabled them to bring to an end the long night of the Dark Ages, began 
to form a united front in order to drive the Moors back into Africa. The 
dominions of the Almohades were slowly but surely captured by the Christian 
armies, and after almost a century of brilliant achievement the Almohade 
dynasty was ended when their last reigning sovereign was deprived of his 
throne in the year 1230. Moslem Spain declared independence under the rule 
of Ibn Hud, the founder of the Huddite dynasty. The Christian forces, in the 
meantime, conquered one great city after another, taking Valencia in 1238, 
Cordova in 1239, and Seville in 1260. 

By 1492, the Moors had lost all Spain except the kingdom of Granada. The 
Christians, although not free from internal disputes, were finally united by the 
marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella, which joined in peace the formerly 
hostile royal houses of Aragon and Castile. The united Christian forces 
surrounded the city of Granada and blockaded it for eight months. The 
Moorish king, Abu Abdallah (also known as Boabdil), finally surrendered. 
The Moors lingered in Spain for a little more than a century. By 1610, through 
expulsion and migration, a million, among them many Jews, had returned to 
northern Africa and western Europe. The expulsion of the Moors from 
Andalusia was a serious setback to modern civilization. 

The true greatness of the Moorish culture is not generally known even to 

the educated classes of the Western world. The standard work on the Moors is 
the three volume History of the Moorish Empire in Europe by S.P. Scott. One 
of the very best studies of the contributions of the Moors to world history is 
the one-volume edition, The Story of the Moors in Spain, by Stanley Lane- 
Poole. It was published in London and New York in 1886. Lane-Poole was 
English, and was professor of Arabic at the University of Dublin. Of the 
conquest and expulsion of the Moors, Lane-Poole wrote: 

In 1492 the last bulwark of the Moors gave way before the crusade of 
Ferdinand and Isabella, and with Granada fell all Spain’s greatness. For a 
brief while, indeed, the reflection of the Moorish splendour cast a bor- 
rowed light upon the history of the land which it had once warmed with 
its sunny radiance. The great epoch of Isabella, Charles V, and Philip II, 
of Columbus, Cortez, and/Pizarro, shed a last halo about the dying 
moments of a mighty State. Then followed the abomination of desolation, 
the rule of the Inquisition, and the blackness of darkness in which Spain 
has been plunged ever since. 4 

Some anthropologists have assigned the Moors to an arbitrary Brown race, 
and others have labeled them Dark-Whites. Joseph McCabe once observed 
that perhaps an African anthropologist would call the same people Pale-Blacks. 
Even the Arabs, who were always a minority in the so-called Arab Culture of 
the Middle Ages, regarded a dark complexion as a badge of honor. Arnold J. 
Toynbee noted that: “The primitive Arabs who were the ruling element of the 
Ommayad Caliphate called themselves ‘the swarthy people,’ with a connota- 
tion of racial superiority, and their Persian and Turkish subjects ‘the ruddy 
people,’ with a connotation of racial inferiority, that is to say, they drew the 
distinction that we draw between blonds and brunets, but reversed the value.” 5 
The curious idea that a great white race has been responsible for all the great 
civilizations of the past is nothing more than a crude superstition propagated 
mainly by European-oriented racist historians. 


Notes on Black Scholars of the Moors in John G. Jackson 's Life 

In addition to Stanley Lane-Poole and Joseph McCabe, John G. Jackson, in 
studying the Moors, has relied heavily upon a cadre of extremely dedicated 
and highly capable scholars. Foremost among these men (unfortunately all 
deceased) are J.C. deGraft-Johnson, Willis N. Huggins, and J.A. Rogers. 

J.C. deGraft-Johnson 

The author of the classic work, African Glory: The Story of Vanished Ne- 
gro Civilization, John Coleman deGraft-Johnson noted that, “The conquest of 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Spain was an African conquest. They were Mohammedan Africans, not 
Arabs, who laid low the Gothic kingdom of Spain.”* DeGraft- Johnson was bom 
in Accra, Ghana, on March 21, 1919. Educated initially at Mfantsipim School, 
Ghana, deGraft-Johnson attended the University of Edinburgh, Scotland’ 
where he was a student from 1937 to 1946. After spending his first two years 
at Edinburgh studying medicine, he discontinued his medical training to study 
Commerce and Economics. He graduated Bachelor of Commerce in June 
1942, Master of Arts with Honors in Economic Science in June 1944 and 
Doctor of Philosophy in December 1946. African Glory, originally published 
m 1954, has recently been reprinted by Black Classic Press with an afterword 
and supplemental bibliography by John Henrik Clarke. 

Willis N. Huggins 

A brilliant writer and an ardent Pan-Africanist, Willis Nathaniel Huggins 
was bom February 7, 1886, in Selma, Alabama. Willis N. Huggins was one of 
the paramount figures in John G. Jackson’s life. Huggins was the founding 
lather and leading figure of the Blyden Society in Harlem, New York, 
beginning in 1932. Huggins received a B.A. from the University of Chicago’ 
an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Fordham University’ 
He conducted further research at Oxford University. In 1934 Jackson co- 
authored with Willis N. Huggins A Guide to the Study of African History, and 
in 1937 - also with Dr. Huggins -An Introduction to African Civilizations. The 
latter work may contain Jackson’s first substantial writings on the Moors. 

J.A. Rogers 

Joel Augustus Rogers’ work on the Moors is perhaps more weighty, 
certainly more thorough and comprehensive, than any other African-Ameri- 
can wnter. His finest work on the subject, contained in Nature Knows No Color- 
Line has yet to be surpassed. A real giant, Rogers probably did more to 
popularize African history than any single scholar of the twentieth century, 
in lonAh WaS b °, m in L Na § ril > Jamaica, September 6, in either 1880 or 1883. 
in Harlem v° l eUmtecl States, and spent the major portion of his life 
histori!n^ New Y° rk . Larg e ly S eif. tra ined, Rogers was an anthropologist, 
andZuTneve u pr ° h !? C W " ter ' He covered the Marcus Garvey trial, 

wrotefor 8 ^ 7 ^ ° f thC Universal Ne gro Improvement Association, 

fa The ?Z? S ^ In 1930 R °S ers was elected to membership 

1 t! hr0p0l0gy - ***> in 1930 ’ in Ethiopia, he attended 
He was akn a f ^ !f 3SSie as a correspondent for th t Amsterdam News. 

Tioolfn f Cd C0lumnist for the Amsterdam News. 

there In 1 cm T™ 7 Eur ° pe f ° r reSearch in the libraries and museums 
927 he returned to Europe for research lasting three years. He also 



went to North Africa during this period. Between 1930 and 1933 he continued 
his studies in Europe. Beginning in 1935, Rogers served as war correspondent 
for the Pittsburgh Courier during the Italian aggression in Ethiopia. He con- 
tributed to such publications as the Crisis, American Mercury, Survey 
Graphic, and the Journal of Negro History. He wrote and published at least 
fifteen books and pamphlets. Rogers was a field anthropologist; he travelled 
to sixty different nations. W.E.B. DuBois wrote that, “No man living has 
revealed so many important facts about the Negro race as has Rogers. 


1. James E. Brunson for the photographs in “The Moors in Antiquity,” and 
also for his assistance and collaboration in several interviews with John G. 

2 Mr. James Cage for arranging the John G. Jackson interviews. 

3. John G. Jackson and the Citadel Press for excerpts from Introduction to 

African Civilizations. . 

4. Karen A. Johnson for production assistance and proofing in The Moors 

in Antiquity” and “The Empire of the Moors.” 


1. Chancellor Williams is perhaps even more blunt about the ethnicity of the 
Moors. He writes, “Now, again, just who were the Moors? The answer is very easy. 
The original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were Black Africans. As amalgam- 
ation became more and more widespread, only the Berbers, Arabs and Coloureds m 
the Moroccan territories were called Moors, while the darkest and black skinned 
Africans were called ‘Black-a-Moors.’ Eventually, ‘black’ was dropped from 
‘Blackamoor.’ In North Africa — and Morocco in particular— all Muslim Arabs, 
mixed breeds and Berbers were readily regarded as Moors. The African Blacks, 
having had even this name taken from them, must contend for recognition as Moors. 
Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization, revised edition (Chicago: 

Third World Press, 1976), 221. . . 

2. Quoted by John G. Jackson, Ages of Gold and Silver (Austin: American 

Atheist Press 1990) 140. 

3. Lady’ Flora Shaw Lugard, A Tropical Dependency (New York: Barnes & 

Noble, 1964), 55-56. ^ u . 1QC _, 

4. Stanley Lane-Poole, The Moors in Spain (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 185/), 

v iii. 

5. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, vol. 1 (London: Oxford University 
Press, 1934), 336. 

6. J.C. deGraft-Johnson, African Glory (Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1986), 

69-70. . i * l. 

7. W.E.B. DuBois, The World and Africa (New York: International Publishers, 

1965), xi. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Selected Bibliography 

De Af^or h H nS h° n i 1 y! 2 'u friC vn, G [ 0ry ^ V? St0ry ° f Vanished Ne 8 r0 Civilizations. 
Afterword by John Henrik Clarke. Baltimore: Black Classic Press 1986. 

Huggins, Willis N., and John G. Jackson. A Guide to the Study of African History. New 

York: Federation of History Clubs, 1934. 

HU York S ’ Av'mHo’us? 1937 JaCkson ' ^ An Introducd °n to African Civilizations. New 

Jackson, John G. Introduction to African Civilizations. Introduction and additional 
Bibliographical Notes by John Henrik Clarke. Secaucus: The Citadel Press 1970 
Jackson, John G. Man, God, and Civilization. New Hyde Park: University Books, 

Jackson, John G. The Golden Ages of Africa. Austin: American Atheist Press, 1987. 
Jackson, John iG. Ages of Gold and Silver and Other Short Sketches of Human History. 

Foreword by Madalyn O’Hair. Austin: American Atheist Press 1990 
Jackson, John G. Introduction to The Story of the Moors in Spain, by Stanley Lane- 
Poole. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1990. 3 

Lane-Poole Stanley. The Moors in Spain. With the collaboration of Arthur Gilman 
London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887. 

k ugard ’ Lady Flora Shaw. A Tropical Dependency. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1964. 
McCabe, Joseph. The Splendour of Moorish Spain. London: Watts & Co. 1 935. 
McCabe, Joseph. The Golden Ages of History. London: Watts & Co. 1 940. 

J '^' Na !l ur J e Knows No Color-Line: Research Into the Negro Ancestry in the 
White Race. 3rd ed. New York: Rogers, 1952. ^ 

Rogers, J LA. Sac and Race, Vol. 1: The Old World. New York: Rogers, 1967. 

Rogers, J.A. Worlds Great Men of Color, 2 Vols. Edited with an Introduction and 
SE e i972 3nd Blbhogra P hical Notes by Jol, n Henrik Clarke. New York: 

SC Lipp1nco« ° f the M ° 0rish Empire in Eur °P e > 3 Vols - Philadelphia: J.P. 


(Background to the emergence of early Berber and Arab 
peoples, from prehistory to the Islamic Dynasties) 

Dana Reynolds 


Most of us are not aware that the peoples whom the classical Greek and 
Roman historians called Berber were “black” and affiliated with the then 
contemporary peoples of the East African area. The word Berber in fact was 
used to refer to peoples of the Red Sea area in Africa as well as North 
Africans. Similarly there was an ancient belief that the nomads dwelling in the 
same latitudes in the deserts of Arabia were peoples whose ancestors had in 
times far distant roamed the deserts of East Africa. It was such populations 
that in large measure comprised the Moorish people, but because of the at- 
tribute of blackness which sharply distinguished them from the bulk of the 
European people, the word came to be generally used by Europeans to 
describe persons of black complexion in general. 

The inhabitants of present day Northern Africa are considered ethnically 
and culturally distinct from the people dwelling south of the Sahara. If this is 
so, it has only come about in relatively recent times. The 700 years that the 
Moors dominated the Iberian peninsula was an era during which many 
people, mostly of European descent, either migrated or were brought to the 
lands of Arabia and North Africa. Although large numbers of blacks were 
brought from the Sudan during that era, studies of the slave traffic of that time 
show that the numbers of people of Slavic and European descent placed into 
servitude far exceeded the number of Sudanese or other blacks bought and 
sold by the Moors. The slave trade did not acquire a color until the Portuguese. 

This part played by the European captive or slave in the making of the 
modern North Africans and “Middle or Near Easterners” has been ignored by 
historians to such an extent that most people are not even aware that such an 
era ever existed. This is partly the fault of the successors of the Orientalist 
school. The early “Orientalist” explorers, mainly living and writing in the 
18th and 19th centuries and the early part of the 20th, were basically Euro- 
pean adventurers. They were usually of the upper-classes, trained in the 
Arabic language, and familiar with such things as the ancient writings of the 
classical Roman and Greek historians, the old Hebraic texts and some of the 


Golden Age of the Moor 

traditions of Islam. Many of them wanted to believe and tried to prove that the 
ancient Arab world and “the Orient,” especially Egypt, was a primitive form 
of European civilization and that North African Berbers and the Arabs of 
Arabia were “noble savages,” whose European strain had been reduced by 
intermingling with ignoble, enslaved “Negroes.” Most of them were anthro- 
pologists and ethnohistorians. 

Some of the later European writers have been a bit more objective in their 
historical depictions of the ancient world and the world of Islam. According to 
James Wellard, author of Lost Worlds of Africa, Muslim Africans brought 
millions of European slaves over the centuries into the North African ports of 
Sale, Tangier, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Fez and Marrakesh and the Northern 
Egyptian towns. Literally millions were documented as being freed in North 
Africa by various Christian organizations in Europe. 1 Philip Curtin points out 
in Ajayi and Crowder’s History of West Africa, that the majority of slaves 
being traded throughout the Mediterranean, including North Africa and the 
Levant (modern Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, West Syria), centuries before the 
fall of Constantinople when the Black Sea trade was cut off, were of European 
descent. It is also known that indigenous Bedouin used to come in to slave 
markets of the coastal cities of Northern Africa and Arabia by way of the 
desert to secure concubines who were often of European descent. 

In 1150 the religious order, the Trinitarians, was founded in France to free 
Christian Europeans by purchase and, according to J.A. Rogers, “for the next 
three centuries or more, collections were taken up in the churches for that 
purpose.” 2 

In Nature Knows No Color Line, Rogers also cites notes of Sir Walter Scott 
on Spanish Chronicles which say that European Christians in Spain were 
forced to pay tribute to the Moors in the form of women. 3 According to an- 
other historian, “a veritable terror reigned in the Mediterranean.” They rav- 
aged the coasts of Spain, Portugal and Southern France, capturing many, 
rhere is apparently documentation of the periodic landing of corsairs along 
he i ^ St !j area ® of Europe to take off the entire population of villages. Even 
m 1721 Kmg George I spoke of “the great number of his subjects” that had 

sTan m7‘ r in N ° rth A&b *- 0ne rather famous 

^ Ismai1 of Meknes in Morocco, a few centuries ago, had as many 

s 25,000 European slaves who participated in the building of his colossal 
stables. Many of the same Europeans brought by the shipload to Africa were 
en sent to America where they remained in indentured servitude. Scottish 
manners, who were often the object of the North African pirates, incidentally, 
eterred to these corsairs as “niggers.” 4 Grafton Elliot Smith, who lived and 
roie in the 19th century and early part of the 20th, remarked that “Moor” is 
orten used in Morocco to suggest “Negro” influence. 5 

ccording to at least a dozen different Greek and Byzantine (neo-Roman) 
writers, from the first to the sixth century A.D., the indigenous Berber 



populations whom they called Mauri or “Moors” were a black-skmned 
war-like, nomadic and predatory population stretching from the borders of 
Egypt to Morocco. They often lived on the borders of the desert and at the foot 
of mountains and were said to be accustomed to the usage of horses and 
camels in battle. At the time of their Islamicization they were bedecked m 
gold and long robes, armed with javelins, iron implements, swords and 
shields (But these are traits which were in fact possessed by many of the 
nomads of the deserts East and West of the Nile and it is such people who 
were also known as “Berbers.”) 

In one of Martial’s writings (Satire VI) around the same era we read the 
phrase “woolly hair like a Moor.” 6 Silius Italicus, an early writer around the 
beginning of the Christian era, describes :the Maures as “Nigra or black. 
Corrippus, a 6th century historian in his Johannid comedy speaks their 
“facies nigroque colorus” and of their blackness as “horrida or hornfy- 
ing” 7 Procopius, another 6th century Byzantine historian, says the Moors 
(Maurusioi) were a people composed of a number of “black-skinned tribes 
who had gained domination over all of North Africa after the period of the 
Vandals’ ascendancy in Africa. 8 

In that pre-Islamic era, the “Moorish” peoples who were later to invade 
Spain were, in fact, noted for their skin color. They are described with such 
descriptive phrases as “black as melted pitch” and “blacker than ink in 
certain well-known European epics and histories. 9 The word Moor had, m 
fact, come to be used during the Middle Ages for a man of a very dark or black 
hue for which reason several authors and playwrights of the period, including 
Shakespeare and Voltaire, used the term for individuals they otherwise desig- 
nate as “Negro.” 10 . 

The phrase “black as a Moor” was used from Roman times until the Middl 

Ages. In one manuscript of the 14th century quoted by J.A. Rogers, we read 
“though men of Nubia be Christians they be as the Moors for the great heat of 
the sun.” The same 14th century observer also refers to the Ethiopians as 
“Moors.” 11 The black and woolly-haired Christs sometimes seen m the Ibe- 
rian peninsula, according to the famous traveler James Mitchner, were referred 
to as “Moors” rather than as Negroes, which is derived from the Latin Niger 

In modern times it has often been suggested that when the earlier E ^ ro P e " 
ans said “black” or “Ethiopians” in reference to North Africans, they did not 
actually mean “black” but a dark or swarthy man like certain modern-day 
North African “Berbers” and many people living in “Arab” countries. This 
interpretation does not explain the hundreds of jet black men with woolly-hair 
who appear later in European coat-of-arms and heraldry under the dozens of 
variations of the term Moor in almost every European country. Some of the 
names under these variants that J.A. Rogers uncovered include such names as 
Moorhead, Blackmore, Morrison, Murray, Maurice, Mor, Mohr, Morocco, 


Golden Age of the Moor 



Moritz, Moran, Maurois, Morini, Moreau, Morelli, Mormand, Moorman, 
Morenkopf and Swarthmore to name but a few. 12 

Germans even today eat “Morenkopf’ candies, dark chocolates shaped 
vaguely in the form of heads. The word Morenkopf means a Moor’s head. All 
of this is evidence that before the 15th century and the Atlantic slave trade, the 
word Moor meant more than just a Muslim, Mauretanian, or Moroccan, and 
was associated more specifically with people of a brownish-black or abso- 
lutely black color. 

During the Middle Ages masqueraders used to blacken their faces “so they 
might better pass as Moors” and they would dance such dances as the Morris 
dance of England and the Moresca (dances apparently named after and 
derived from the Moors). Another of their legacies in dance is known as 
Flamenco Moro, a dance from which today’s Flamenco is derived. The 
renown of the Moors in the arts was such that a Frenchman wrote in the 
1600’s, “I can tell from here what the inhabitants of Venus are like; they 
resemble the Moors of Granada; a small black people, burned by the sun, full 
of wit and fire, always in love, writing verse, fond of music, arranging 
festivals, dances and tournaments every day.” 13 

The Moors are thought to have introduced the earliest versions of several 
instruments, including the lute or el oud, the guitar or kithara, and the lyre. 
The arts and letters flourished among the Moors in Spain, and they were 
renowned for their skills and contributions to the sciences and philosophy as 
well. Rogers mentions certain books, one published in 1610 in which the 
Spaniards are described as a “white” people being ruled by a “black” one. 14 
ux J 116 !?° rd “ Moor ” signified a black man and the people who were called 
Moors were the North African ancestors of the dark-brown and brown- 
b ack peopks of the present-day Sahara and the Sahel, mainly those called 
m, Tuareg Zenagha of Southern Morocco, Kunta and Tebu of the Sahel 
countries, as well as ‘Moorish” and other “black” Arabs who live in Mauretania 

Cha“X If Aferi T h ,'" S 0t , 0ther Sudanese A ' ab ,rib “. as >1* 

Tuwares who ° n§ ’ Hnky dark - browi1 men called Tuarek or 

S* H ? seen veiled and armed with sword and shield, 

commerce thef WUh ?® lr Camels ’ are sti11 involved in the desert 

Arab “Mo™” 7 a ° f during the Middle A § es - The copper-black 

main brinsers of M descendai j ts of the Yemenite and Hejazi Arabians, the 

(TsomherJ A h ? t0 * f r a - They Sti11 trace their ancestr y to the Yemen 

playins “Moor - h” 3 i"j- ’ ke their kinsmen in Yemen, they can be seen 

under t n ?® lodies Wlth stringed, percussion and wind instruments 
under shade trees in Mauretania. 

thfJr he tUrbaned .™ bu and Zaghawa, jet black and wiry men, once known for 
sorcery and their skill in metallurgy, are still spread across the hottest 
areas of the Sahel and southern parts of the Sahara. The “red” or pastoral 

Fulani, renowned for their holy wars, which converted so many Sudanese 
tribes to Islam can still be seen performing acrobatic dances, the steps and 
turns of which mirror the “breakdancing/’ revived by Afro-Cubans in America 
in the early years of this century. 

The haunting music of some of the desert dwellers like the Tuarek and the 
so-called “Moorish” Arabs are strongly reminiscent of the traditional harmo- 
nies heard in the music of Spain and Portugal and has left a characteristically 
beautiful, equally haunting quality in the traditional folk music of Mali and 
Islamic Africa in general. Listening carefully, one can discern in their melo- 
dies the early blues tonalities of blacks of the American south, and still found 
in the rhythms and melodies of modem blues. 

The Moors founded and constructed many industrious and prosperous 
towns and cities, in the Iberian peninsula, and all over Northern Africa and as 
far south as Timbuktu, and other areas of the Sudan, to which many students 
from other parts of Europe came to study and through which many of the arts 
and sciences of Africa and Asia were transplanted onto European soil. The 
remnants of their many castles can be seen in Northern Africa as in Spain and 

This being said, one does not have to wonder why there has been very little 
focus in European history on the legacy of the Moors or their influence on 
Europe’s emergence from the Dark Ages. This is unfortunate, for these men 
and women belonged to a “black” population whose dominance extended 
from the borders of Egypt to Morocco and the Atlantic, even before the time 
of the Muslim invasion of North Africa. They are a people whose documented 
historv goes back in North Africa to the time of the Pharaohs and the phase of 
Carthagenian history that produced Hannibal. Most books that attempt to 
speak of “Berber” origins (though the Moors were not just the Berbers) claim 
that they were “whites” affiliated biologically with Europeans like those who 
live in the Atlas Mountains and close to the Mediterranean today. 

The prestige and growing power of Western Europe did much to change 
the perception of North Africa’s original ethnic relationship to groups in the 
sub-saharan areas. In the 15th century, with the coming of Portuguese and 
Spanish slave-traders, the earliest of the European slavers (along with the 
Turks), the slave trade was gradually transformed so that Africans became the 
vast majority of slaves in Mediterranean Europe, North Africa, and the so 
called Orient, including the Arabian peninsula. After the fall of Constantinople 
the Black Sea slave trade was cut off. Turkish rulers in North Africa were 
inclined to depend on middlemen of the Sahara to bring slaves from the 
Sudan, rather than to look to Europe where growing technical and military 
strength coupled with nationalism made slave importation from Northern 
provinces a far more difficult proposition. 

In earlier periods the Berbers had been subject to the rulers of the Sudanese 
kingdoms but as the era of the Ottoman Turks and the Atlantic slave trade was 


Golden Age of the Moor 

ushered m, both Berber and Arab tribes of the Sahara began battling for 
control over the established trade routes leading to the Sudan. These routes 
were being fiercely contested because of increasing demand and the payments 

f'7 n . fo , r ? a ; e L S ,n the tradin § towns - In East Africa, where both “whites” and 
blacks had been sold up unto a late period, Europeans established them- 
selves as overseers of the trade and helped to make sure the steady stream of 
African slaves were available for the traders of Yemen and Oman and other 
parts of the “Arab world.” 

Slavery was aggravated by the rather distorted demands of capitalism. 
Rulers in the Sudan were often ready and willing to comply because of the 
money involved. Apart from this, they conceived of themselves as possessing 
ethnicities different from the people they sold. 

The 18th century saw not only the economic ascendancy of Europe but a 
great devaluation of African humanity south of the Sahara. And, according to 
a recent writer, while the Turks, Arabs and Berbers would marry their 
daughters off to European slaves, marriage to a man of the Sudan, slave or 

M e lu W f, COnSldered deni 8 ratin 8' On the other hand many of the sultans in 
orth Africa and the Middle East had mothers who were Sudanese. (In 
Europe too African men were beginning to be glamorized as exotic “favor- 
ltes of noblewomen and African women as mistresses of noblemen and 
artists.) But, m general, the peoples from sub-Saharan Africa came to be 
perceived as not worthy of much respect as human beings. The Northern 
element in North Africa, which by the 18th century was already more Euro- 
pean than African or Arab came to look condescendingly on Africa as a place 
o uncultured peoples, from whence comes the perennial slave or “Abd” It is 
a perception which has not entirely disappeared among the Westernized 
peoples of the North African area and the Middle East. These negative 
perceptions have recently been intensified because of the way “black Afri- 

deS “ n ' a " P ° mayed " ' he WeS ' em med ‘ a “ d 

It was after the late era of the slave trade that there came to be a penchant 
for using words other than Moor for the Africans who were then being taken 

ZleZ 6 * ” fCt StatUS ’ f ° r M ,°° r h3d P reviousl y denote d one of the more 
mired and markedly empowered peoples of Europe. (In fact General Franco 

Spam used troops very black in color who were called “Moorish.”) 

This necessitated ignoring the ethnic heritage and history of the men called 
Moors who were in fact people called in ancient times Berbers and Arabians 
One is led jo believe from recent writings on “Berbers” that they were hordes 
ot tanned European-looking” men with no affiliation to the “black-skinned,” 
lightly built, Africans that the ancients said they were. Instead we are told they 
were Africans of the “white” race which “semi-white” men of the “Orient” 
had converted to Islam and led into Portugal and Spain. 

The Arabs of that era were also mostly Bedouin, who brought the language 



and beliefs of their ancient desert culture and some of the complex cultural 
traditions of ancient Arabia and parts of Asia into North Africa. The Berbers 
were the aboriginal indigenes of Northern Africa (mostly desert and mountain 
dwellers who belonged to a type that predominated in the same latitudes as 
those of the Arabian peninsula) as well as further North and East in Asia, 
centuries before Islam. 

Ancient Arabia was occupied by a people far different in appearance than 
most of its modern-day occupants. These were a people who once occupied 
Egypt, who were affiliated with the East African stocks, and who now speak 
the “Hamitic” or Semitic languages. These were the people who, in the days 
of the Romans, were the majority of the occupants of the Arabian peninsula. 

Waves of colonizations by Romans, Greeks, Turks, Iranians, Iraqis and 
others combined with the Europeans to bring about the gradual modifying of 
the physical appearance and culture of the people in the areas of North Africa 
closest to the Mediterranean as well as the people who populated the Arabian 
peninsula. The West has played down, ignored or completely denied the role 
of colonization, slavery and concubinage in the creation of the population m 
coastal cities of North Africa like Cairo, Tunis and Algiers. This population is 
phenotypically similar in many respects to those areas on the opposite side of 
the Mediterranean in the southern portions of Europe. European academia has 
usually preferred to see this demographic phenomenon as testimony to the 
“Caucasoid” or European origin of such peoples as the ancient Berbers, 
Moors, and Egyptians. 

It is because the original populations have since been overwhelmed by 
others biologically and culturally, that few Westerners have written of the 
ethnic heritage or contributions of ancient cultures of North Africa, whether 
in Egypt or Tunisia or Morocco, in the context or terms of their real or “black” 
African background. They have chosen to concentrate on the most recent 
world of the Arab and Berber-speaking peoples and present it as if it is a world 
that has always been. It is like comparing the Aztecs of five hundred years ago 
with the ethnic mix of America today. The story of when North Africa was 
Moorish and Arabia the land of Saracens has yet to be told. 

The following essay will try to present the evidence which demonstrates 
the biological and ethnic ties of the ancient Moors with other indigenous 
“blacks” of Africa. 

* * * 



Golden Age of the Moor Reynolds 

The Arab as Known to the Greeks and Romans 

In the days of Mohammed and the Roman colonizations of Palestine, North 
Arabia and Africa, the term Arab was much more than a nationality. It 
specifically referred to peoples whose appearance, customs and language 
were the same as the nomadic peoples on the African side of the Red Sea. In 
fact, the term included the populations of the Red Sea in Africa. Some now 
think that the word Arab is a word literally meaning nomad, although the 
word has never been used to refer exclusively to nomads. (According to 
ancient southern Arabian inscriptions the word Arhab or Arribi was a name of 
one of the Himyarite tribes of the Yemen in the Bab el Mandeb area.) 1 Before 
the spread of Islam, there lived in the deserts of the Arabian peninsula, 
Northern Syria, Iraq and Hadramaut, nomads who were nearly as “black” as 
the Moors they later conquered and converted to Islam. Because the word 
Mauri had come to signify a man of black or nearly black complexion, the 
Arabian who invaded Northern Africa came also to be referred to as “Moorish.” 
These lesser modified occupants of Arabia were and are described in 
Arabic as “hadhara” or “black.” 2 This word originally signified that which is 
like the color of a type of iron which was greenish black. Thus, such things 
that are black or very dark like iron, or like the night, are often described in 
early Arab writings as “hadhara” which literally means “green” but signifies 
something black. The peoples of Chad, until the Europeans colonized the 
area, sang of Tunis, the “hadhara,” in memory of the presence of the dark- 
complexioned Arabs who once ruled there. 3 

According to Ammianus Marcellinus, Roman general of the 4th century 
A.D., the Bedouin populations of southern Syria and the Arabian peninsula 
whom the Romans called Saracens (derived from Sarah or Sahra meaning 
desert nomads), were peoples “whose primary origin was derived from the 
cataracts of the Nile on the borders of the Blemmyes.” The Blemmyes or 
Bedja are a people located then and now in the deserts east of the Nile in 
Sudan. They rode on camels and like the Moors were particularly notorious 
for their hit and run raids from the desert fringes. They were lightly clad, 
dressed in tunics only to the waist, and were experts at pillaging for which 
reason Ammianus claimed they were “not good to have as friend or foe ” 

A stratum of peoples of relatively recent African origin extended into Asia, 
he evidence of linguistics, archaeology, physical remains and ethnohistory 
support the observations and descriptions we find in the histories of the 
reeks and Romans and in later Iranian documents about the nomadic Arabi- 
ans of that early era. The Arabs were the direct progeny and kinsmen of the 
. j^ r , rown ’ gracile and kinky haired “Ethiopic” peoples that first spread over 
the desert areas of Nubia and Egypt. Before the middle of the 2nd millennium 
ey were located along the Mediterranean coast in Turkey, Europe and the 
rabian peninsula. In their least modified form they may be found now settled 
in the Horn of Africa, the southern Sahara and remote parts of Arabia. 5 

These people spoke languages belonging to a group that linguists now call 
Erythraean or Afro-Asiatic (formerly called “hamito-semitic”). The dialects 
are spoken predominantly in the Horn of Africa, North Africa and the Middle 
East. They include the dialects called Cushitic, Omotic, Ethiopic or Ethio- 
semitic. The latter grouping is descended from ancient dialects of Arabia 
which in turn have their roots in Africa. In North Africa the dialects include 
the Berber and Arabic (which is a late comer to Africa and the last evolved of 
the African-Asiatic dialects). They also include the ancient Semitic dialects of 
Syria and Mesopotamia as well as the language of ancient Egypt which some 
scholars considered to be “proto-semitic.” 6 

The early Semitic dialects include those called Akkadian, Amorite, 
Aramaean, Canaanite, Hebrew and South Arabic. The language of the original 
Semitic speakers, however, wal also adopted by other North Syrian peoples 
indigenous to Asia. These latter seem to have been predominantly fair- 
skinned, broad-headed, prominent-nosed people who came to predominate in 
Northern Syria, Northern Armenia and Mesopotamia, especially those popu- 
lations of the areas anciently called Assyria and Ebla. They were in custom 
and origin much different from the people of the desert, who could claim an 
African origin when the Romans fought them in Syria and Arabia centuries 
after Christ. 

Some of the most prominent linguists today have suggested that the Semitic 
languages and culture originated in Ethiopia and spread from there to South 
West Asia. 7 It was long ago pointed out that Egyptian seemed to be a proto- 
Semitic dialect and that the Cushitic languages of the area of Sudan and 
Ethiopia possessed the seeds for the Semitic dialects. And although modem 
Ethio-semitic dialects seem to be descended from those of the Abyssinian, 
Sabaean and Himyaritic immigrants who colonized parts of Ethiopia and 
Somalia about 500 B.C., recent studies show that Semitic languages have 
been spoken in Ethiopia for at least four thousand years. 8 

Rock art and the stone or lithic industry of the Rub-al Khali or Empty 
Quarter (Central desert in Saudi Arabia) seem to point also to Somalia and the 
Horn of Africa as the area from which a wave of sheepherding people 
emigrated to Arabia during the period between 5,000 and 4,000 B.C. 9 The 
people portrayed in this art have been described by Emmanuel Anati, an 
archaeological specialist (who has written on the drawing) as “Negroid.” The 
extent of this rock art, however, stretched to the Persian Gulf area in the east 
and has some affiliation with certain early cultures of Mesopotamia. The art 
also shows some elements of similarity with rock art of the Chalcolithic 
period in the south Syrian desert and the Gerzean paintings in Southern 
Egypt. 10 One early specialist in Egyptian rock art and glyphs suggested they 
were essentially the same as the art of peoples dwelling in the hills and deserts 
East of the Nile. 11 Similar depictions of dark-skinned men and other elements 
reminiscent of the early predynastic Egyptian culture appear in the Jebel Kara 


Golden Age of the Moor 

area where several of the tribes still resemble the peoples of the Nubian desert 
called Beja as well as other Cushitic and Ethiopic-speaking peoples in Ethio- 
pia, Sudan and Erithrea . 12 The Shahara or Sheheri whose name was made 
famous through the story of Sheherezade still live in Jebel Kara and the hills 
of Dthufar in Oman. These Afro-semitic people, according to Sir Richard 
Burton the famous “Orientalist” explorer, are a people with low brows and 
black skins, with frail and slender frames. According to Bertram Thomas 
these people, who speak some of the oldest living Arab dialects, resemble the 
Cushites called Bedja, now living in the deserts east of the Nile in Sudan and 
Ethiopia. Such people appear in isolation further to the North of the peninsula 
as well as in Iran where they apparently called themselves Lam. 

The men in the Arabian rock art wore small beards like those in Sahara rock 
art. They also wore headdresses and used throwing sticks. The ostrich, the 
shield, the staff and the phallus are often portrayed. These were apparently 
sacred symbols which often have totemic significance today among pastoral 
people in Africa especially in the Sahel and Cushitic areas. They carried on 
ceremonies, associated with the ox and the phallus. They practiced mock 
battle similar to that of the Cushitic and the Nilo-saharan peoples of east 
Africa. The men portrayed in the art of the Arabian desert, in fact, bear great 
resemblance to the slender and lightly bearded nomads which appeared in the 
same epoch in the Sahara . 13 

G. Elliot Smith, who early recognized the ancient prevalence of the 
“Erithraean” or “Abyssinian” type of man in the Near and Middle East which 
he named the “brown race” was a specialist in physical anthropology and had 
studied the osteological remains of the Middle East and Africa. Smith as- 
serted that there was good reason to believe that the early inhabitants of 
Arabia and southern Syria were essentially the same, osteologically speaking, 
as the A-group population of Nubia. He was also adamant about his belief that 
the modern Cushitic speakers of Ethiopia and the early inhabitants of ancient 
Egypt were genetically related . 14 Though still inhabiting the southern deserts 
and some of the mountainous areas of Oman, these slender “dark-brown” 
pastoral tribes are not very numerous in Arabia today. It is this small, African 
type that Kramer, the founder of Sumerian studies, talked about when he 
spoke of the “brown” man that occupied Sumer. 

In Jebel Djezan, in modern day Saudi Arabia people indistinguishable from 
modern Eritreans live. The houses they build are also similar to those found in 
Eritrea. In modern day Yemen live the Murad mentioned as a Himyarite tribe 
in early inscriptions. Several other tribes of this ancient Afro-semitic stock 
still dwell in the desert and coastal areas of the peninsula. Their customs in 
many cases are like those of the Abyssinians. 

Such types in Arabia are represented in tribes like the Harb who dwell 
North of Mecca. Not long ago Sir Richard Francis Burton in his travels to 
Arabia met men from the Harb tribe, who were the ruling clan of the Hejaz. 


Figure 1 . Girls of Yemen in Arabia, the ancient home of Sheba (Saba) and the 

* * 0 

, dak*,,, „ 



Golden Age of the Moor 

He describes them in the personal narrative of his pilgrimage to Mecca and 
Medina as having attenuated limbs, a “chocolate brown” color and “bushy 
hair” with “screaming voices.” He called them the ruling clan of the Hejaz 
area which is the area of Mecca, the early Muslim town. The Harb, who dwelt 
in the Northern Hejaz when visited by explorer Burton, are by tradition the 
descendants of the Ghassan or Assanite Saracens described by Roman writers 
like Ammianus Marcellinus. The Hamida, the largest clan of the Harb, are 
mentioned in ancient South Arabic inscriptions. Hamida are also found in 
modem Sudan. 

The Beni Harb, according to Arab genealogy, were also related to those 
Arabs that invaded North Africa in the 11th century called Qays, Ailan, 
Suleim and Hilal. Thus it was that a few centuries after Ammianus Marcellinus 
wrote, men of this sort proclaiming themselves followers of Mohammed left 
the Arabian peninsula, the area of the Hejaz and Yemen, lands which they had 
inhabited for some 4,000 years. They invaded the countries to the North and 
North East of them, turning the speech of those lands to the speech that is 
called Arab, and the culture of those lands in part to the Afro-Semitic culture. 
Ever since then most Muslims who speak the language of the “hadhara” 
Mohammedans have been referred to as Arab. 

In the 1500s, Jews called Anaiza lived in the hills of Khaibar (ancient 
capital of Judaism in Arabia). They are now found in both North and South 
Arabia and were described by an Italian explorer as “black, though some are 
blacker than others,” with voices like women. They “flayed alive” any Mus- 
lim who came within their midst. 15 They are by tradition descendants of those 
who fled Judaea at the time of Bukht al-Nasur or Nebuchadnezzar, the 
Chaldaeo-Babylonian king who invaded their land. 

The early desert populations of Arabia and Africa were for the most part 
derived from Africans who seem to have undergone a specialized physical 
development having evolved in hot, dry regions in the late stone age. Many of 
the Eritrean-looking men of Arabia and those in Africa, inappropriately 
named “hamites” by European academia, are often found in areas where 
temperatures soar above 120 degrees. They tend to be very slender with 
gracile bones and attenuated limbs. The skin, though dark-brown or black- 
brown, tends to have a strong reddish hue, which is thought, also, to be due to 
the ecological pressures of the environment in which they evolved. Long and 
narrow pentaganoid-shaped faces are common. Narrow noses and little or no 
prognathism are typical and associated with the modified aspect of their facial 
and cranial morphology. These characteristics, once presumed to be a legacy 
of a non-Negroid or Caucasoid intermixture, are now attributed, by some 
population biologists and geneticists, to the ancient adaptation of Africoids to 
certain specific, ecological factors including the change to a neolithic diet in 
combination with dwelling in exceedingly hot, dry habitats. 16 

Thus the indigenous or “black” tribes of Arabia were those who in ancient 


times emigrated from Africa during the neolithic era, approximately four to 
five thousand B.C., and were the earliest purveyors and dispersers of the 
Semitic dialects especially of the early Semitic which prevailed in the area of 
Syria and Mesopotamia as well. This is to say, the “Saracens” that Ammianus 
Marcellinus saw were dwelling in Arabia for at least three to four thousand 
years before he encountered them. They were not only familiar with the desert 
but had been involved in the creation of some of the earliest so-called 
“Semitic” civilizations. 

Some like the Thamudenioi or Temaii are mentioned as desert dwellers in 
Assyrian texts of the 7th century B.C. They are mentioned along with a tribe 
called Sabaai, who were in fact the Sabaeans of southern Arabia and Macae 
who were perhaps the Macae Saracens of Mesopotamia mentioned by the 
Romans of centuries later. Their cattle and camels were “without number.” 

The Agareni or Hagar whom Ammianus, St. Jerome and others spoke of, 
were probably the same tribe mentioned thousands of years earlier in an 
inscription of the Persian Gulf area on an island called Dilmun. There were 
those of the Saracens who had emigrated North from the southern parts of 
Arabia after some ecological catastrophe had caused the breaking of the dam 
in the Sabaean civilization. Such people were the Assanites or the “hadhara” 
Ghassanids and Lihyanites of early texts. Others like the Nabataeans of Petra 
were in fact known as Amorites until a late period. By Arabic historical 
tradition they were descendants of Nimrod and Kush who were said to have 
come to Jordan after having left the Chatt el Arab area of present day Iraq or 
what was then known as Babylon. 

It must be said here that early Greeks and Romans did not usually distin- 
guish ethnically between the people called Saracens and the inhabitants of 
southern Arabia (the Yemen) which was called India Minor or Little India in 
those days, nor southern Arabians from the inhabitants of the Horn of Africa. 
What differences there were between them were more cultural and environ- 
mental than anything else. Strabo, around the 1st century B.C., Philostratus 
and other writers, speak of the area east of the Nile in Africa as “Arabia” and 
the people are persistently and indiscriminately and sometimes simultaneously 
referred to as either Arabs, Indians or Ethiopians, just as native Americans in 
Central and North America are characteristically grouped under a single term 
as “Indians.” Strabo even went so far as to say that the peoples called 
“Trogodytes” the indigenes of the ancient Horn should not be called “Ethiopi- 
ans” as they were really “Arabs.” 

Although the ancients were aware of the movement of peoples like the 
Habeshan (Beshmat) and Sabaeans from the Arabian peninsula to the Horn a 
few centuries before the Christian era (a movement fairly well-documented 
by archaeologists), it is clear from the ancient writings on the “Arabs” that the 
peoples of the Arabian peninsula and the nonimmigrant, indigenous nomads 
of the Horn were considered ethnically one and the same and thought to have 



Golden Age of the Moor Reynolds 

originated in areas near the cataracts of the Nile. Trogodytes (Bedja) were 
said to have lived on both sides of the Red Sea. 

Several southern Arab peoples like the Himyarites of Yemen who are 
sometimes referred to as Ethiopians and the Maddenioi or Madiei of the Hejaz 
Asir were considered Saracens by Procopius. Such people had strong com- 
mercial ties with Africa through the Red Sea trade. It is hard to imagine that 
the people on the Arabian coast on the eastern side of the Red sea called in 
ancient inscriptions Madiei were not in some way related to those men called 
in ancient times Madjai or Madjayu (the Egyptologists’ rendering of the name) 
on the western or African side of the Red Sea. The Medjayu are mentioned 
before 2,000 B.C. and appear as late as Roman times in Egyptian texts as 
truculent desert nomads. They are presently considered to be ancestral to 
modern Bedja or Cushites. The latter (Madjai) carried on a great caravan trade 
with Egypt as late as the days of the Romans and the former (Madiei) were 
considered incense traders. According to Josephus, Cleodemus and later 
writers, a Madan gave birth to the founders of tribes called Afran or Afra, and 
Abida and Hevila, Iudadas and Raama whose descendants crossed over into 
Libya. In fact, these could be none other than the Abida, Afren, sons of 
Midian of Genesis fame. Josephus makes Madan, the brother of Midian, 
father of the two tribes. 

According to later traditions, Afra also known as Ifrikus or Fariq crossed 
over the Nile and conquered the indigenes of North Africa, founding many 
tribes of Berbers and naming Africa. Interestingly enough, the tribe of Abida 
inhabits the south Arabian area and directly across from Yemen in the Horn of 
Africa, a Cushitic tribe called Afar dwells in Djibouti and Erithraea. Avalis or 
Hevila was known as the country of the Trogodytes and is now known as 
Zeila. It is located in modern Somalia. (More will be said about these 
traditions and the Trogodytes and the Bedja later.) 

The Berbers of the Romans 

The word Berber is utilized to describe present day inhabitants of North 
Africa who speak a pre-Islamic North African dialect. They represent a highly 
amalgamated peoples varying in appearance and morphology. Modem day 
“Berbers,” however modified by racial intermixture, still speak a language 
related to other indigenous dialects of Northern and Eastern Africa. Their 
language has been suggested to have some Semitic elements and Indo- 
European words as well. But while many of the modem day tribes denoted by 
scholars as “Berbers” have a strong “Caucasoid” element biologically-speaking 
(especially those in the northern regions of North Africa), the ancient Berbers 
were evidently more African than they were European and as such, were often 
spoken of as “Ethiopians.” 

Words like “hamite” and “brown” or “gracile Mediterranean” have been 

employed by anthropologists to describe both the indigenes of Ethiopia as 
well as the very hybrid populations of modern day North Africa. Such terms, 
besides tending to hide the fact that modern Berber-speakers are a product of 
amalgamation mostly recent, also belie the fact that the original Berber and 
Arab populations in North Africa were biologically and ethnically affiliated 
with modern day peoples to the south of Egypt especially those who now 
speak languages of the Ethiopic and Cushitic groupings. 

The name Maure as has been said was first used for one of the several 
dozen “black” tribes that occupied North Africa even before the Christian 
era. The tribe itself included several clans including Mauri Mazazeces, Mauri 
Baueres, Mauri Bagoda and Mauri Gentiani. 17 It is one of these clans- the 
Baueres or Bavares— whose name was frequently amended to Barbares or 
“Berbers” in the ancient Romaft texts. 18 

Claudian, a prominent Roman of the 4th century A.D. complained about 
Gildo, the Moorish ruler in Algeria, claiming that in handing over Roman 
matrons of Sidon to his fellow Moorish countrymen, he made “hideous 
Ethiopian hybrids” affright the cradles of Roman provinces of North Africa. 
One of the culprits he names in this regard are the Berbers. (Gildo himself was 
one of the Baueres). 19 The use of the term Berber in this paper will thus be for 
the original indigenes of North Africa known simultaneously as “Moors” and 
“Ethiopians” who were the “wandering Libyans” spoken of by Herodotus and 
the descendants of Danaus and the “black Danaaides” of other early Greek 

On the Origins of the term Berber 

There are many instances in ancient classical literature where names of 
foreign tribes “were caricatured into punning words intelligible to Greek 
audiences.” The word Berber seems to be one of these. The term has often 
been considered to mean “barbarian,” but, as G. Camps points out, the word 
Barbares or Berber in manuscripts was different from the normal plural 
meaning “barbarian” which was Barbari. 20 This is one of the main reasons for 
considering the word Berber indigenous to the Africans themselves. G. Camps 
and others have also mentioned that the term Berger appears sporadically in 
the toponyms of the “hami tic- speakers.” The linguistic grouping formerly 
called “Hamitic” by scholars included various dialects of the Cushitic and 
Omotic branches in East Africa besides the Berber and Chadic dialects and 
ancient Egyptian. The term Erythraean and Afro-Asiatic is now utilized for 
these and the related Semitic languages. 

If, as is now presumed, this linguistic grouping had its beginnings in the 
eastern Sudan, then we can assume that the root bar, ber or bur signified what 
it does now among such peoples as the Berbers and Cushites in Africa which 
is the phallus, young man or a warrior. In modem Cushitic and Tamashek 


Golden Age of the Moor 

(Berber), and other groups of the Afro-Asiatic dialects -the word and roots 
pronounced barbariyiha, bur or bar mean a male youth or warrior or some- 
times the phallus. It reflects the importance of the warrior caste or age-set 
among such peoples, as seen in the importance of mock ritual battle and 
ancient phalhcism in Cushitic, Semitic (Canaanite) and Berber culture. Oth- 
erwise, the more likely significance is that it has something to do with the 
word for wells and water sources which are so important in the lives of 
pastoralists. This would more adequately explain why the word appears in 
hamitic regions as a place name. Berber was the name for the people and 
region of the Red Sea coast. Part of this region is now called Behera or Bahr 
Ge ez. The word Behera refers to the sea. 

A man named Berr, according to one tradition, was ancestor of the Berbers 
The name of the hero-ancestors of the Berbers, the 7 Iyyabaran or Jabarran 
(otherwise called Argulen), like the Jababirah of Arab tradition is probably 
affiliated to this name. 21 Many Cushitic and Berber tribes, ancient and mod- 
em, had names prefixed or suffixed by variants of the root ber or bar, bur, war 
(In ancient trnes we have such tribes as the Sababares, Megabari, Adiabari 
Nahaban, Sambandae m the area of Nubia and North Africa). The language 
of certain “hamitic” peoples now living in Chad of Cushitic origin is called 
Barituki meaning belonging to the Baribari. In Arab writings we have the 
Berber names Warfejun, War Satafa, Wargla and Warith. 

ft was just mentioned that the term Berber was also used by the Romans for 
the people of the Somali coast and certain nomadic peoples of Nubia and the 
eastern desert. Large areas around the Red Sea are called in ancient maps 
Berbera or Barbanoi. The area extending between Berenice and down to 
Adulis in Ethiopia was Berber country and the Somali coast was called the 
other country of the Barbarioi. 22 The term was seemingly always employed in 
East Africa for these nomadic and desert peoples otherwise called 
Trogodytes. It was never used for the peoples of other sorts of African 
cultures whom Strabo and other ancients assure us were in the area All this 
makes it by no means improbable that the word stems from the Africans 
themselves and that the appropriation of the term by the ancient Greeks and 

« led t0 ,! ts < r oming t0 be imbued b y modem scholars with the significance 
of barbarian. This is not to say such people were not considered barbarian 
by the Greeks and Romans. 

The Libyans and Moors (as seen by the Greeks and Romans) 

The early ethnohistory of the North Africans and the emergence of the 
Islamic Moorish dynasties has been fairly well-documented by the works of 
Arab historians and earlier manuscripts. The tribes who comprised the Moors 
were apparently in many cases identified by the same clan names as they were 
nown in the area of Carthage and Numidia in the centuries before the 



Christian era. Although some modem Berbers are neither fully African nor 
European in appearance, several tribes have changed very little and the 
adjective “Ethiopian” can just as well suit them today as it did in ancient 
times. (See below) 

The word Lebou or Libyan was one of the earliest terms for the blac 
dark-skinned indigenes in North Africa before the time of the European 
colonizations. Oric Bates, a scholar familiar with the archaeology and 
ethnohistory of ancient Northern Africa, noted in his book, The Eastern 
Libyans, that all of the oldest representations of the Libyans in Egyptian 
iconography show dark brown-skinned men. 23 Only in later times, after the 
12th dynasty, do the paintings show other types under the same terms. Among 
the most common names for the Libyans in ancient Egypt are Tehenou, 
Temehou and Lebou. Another scholar more recently places the first appearance 
of blond Libyans under the name of Temehou during the time of Seti of the 
19th dynasty. The name Temehou previously referred to a land located to the 
west of the Nile in what is now called Libya and Sudan. 24 

It seems the migrations of “the peoples of the sea” coming from areas to the 
North of the Mediterranean sea and the isles of that sea had led to the 
settlement of people related to Scythians or the later Hellenic Greeks in the 
areas of the African Libyans. 25 The Egyptians came to utilize the terms Lebou 
(Libyan), Tamehou and other originally ethnic terms in the sense of westerner 
and thus many types of peoples of differing origin who came to inhabit the 
area of modern Libya were represented under terms formerly denoting the 

“Ethiopic” or “Hamitic” indigenes. , . f 

For the Greeks and Romans Libya became the ancient name of the whole of 
North Africa. They were well aware of the presence of foreigners or colonists 
in North Africa from Asia Minor who were descended from Scythians and 
Phoenicians. However, they recognized an indigenous and relatively homo- 
geneous group of Libyans whom they spoke of in their allegories as the 
descendants of Danaus and the Danaides and a “Nile-born” Epaphus, de- 
scribed as black in ancient writings. It was this sort of North African who was 
most often referred to as “Libyan” by the Greeks and Romans and it is they 
who were the ancestors of the “Maurusioi” or “Moors,” among whom were 

th e Berbers. , 

Being Africans and closely affiliated with pastoral groups further east, they 
were a people whose customs and religion were almost entirely African at the 
time of the first encounter with Roman colonists. They scarred and painted 
their faces like other Africans. They wore their hair in totemic styles and 
braids. They did not eat of the flesh of cows as is the custom of many of the 

more traditional Cushitic peoples today. 26 

Some of the “Libyan” tribes that are mentioned by Herodotus are the 
Nasamones, Gindanes, Machlyes, Gamphasantes, Gilligammae, Psylli, 
Atlantaeans, Lotophagii, Macae, Adyrmachidae and Auseans. The 



Golden Age of the Moor Reynolds 

Adyrmachidae were directly West of the Egyptian Delta in Herodotus’ day 
although they are described a few centuries later as a people along the Nile in 
Northern Nubia, the Nasamones were in Syrtis Major (see map) across the 
southern slope of Cyrenaica in modem Libya. The Nasamones controlled the 
Augila oasis in Libya, the Macae were directly West of the Nasamones, 
Machlyes were in the Lesser Syrtis on the Libyan coast, the Lotophagii were 
in the west of Libya and the Gamphasantes were considered a section of the 
Garamantes who were more or less agriculturalists and pastoralists in the 
Fezzan area. The Ammonians were a sedentary people in the Siwa oasis in 
Libya and partly Egyptian. 27 

Later ancient writers mention many other tribes. They include people like 
the Marmaridae, Zigritae, Maures, the Lagwathes or Levathes who were a 
tribe of the Maurusioi (Moors), Mazikes another Maurusioi people, the Pharusii 
of southern Morocco, the Erebidae, Tedamansii, Asbstae, Hesperidae, Nigritae, 
Gaetuli and a host of other peoples. According to Strabo of the 1st century, the 
Marmaridae lay along the shore next to Egypt extending west to Cyrenaica 
and south to Ammoniam (Siwah). The Hesperidae lived in the fertile part of 
Cyrenaica. According to Philistus, the Erebidae and Gindanes were part of the 
Lotophagii. The Levathes Maures were in Leptis Magna at the time of the 
Emperor Justinian of the 4th century. Salluste a few centuries earlier calls the 
Maures a people in the area closest to Spain. 

A people called Gaitules were said by Eustathius to be the greatest or 
largest of the Libyan tribes. According also to Strabo they were the most 
numerous. They extended along the south Atlas slopes eastward to the Syrtis 
Major. They composed a number of sub-tribes including Nigize, Baniurae, 
Bagigaitules, Darae and others. It is possible that they were also the Atlantaeans 
of earlier writers. 

Pliny and Tacitus mention tribes like the Mussulini or Massyli, and the 
Masaesyli who were possibly the Macae Libyans mentioned by Herodotus. 
Ptolemy mentions the Seli, a tribe next to the Nasamones. Bates thought that 
the root Sel was an ethnic term preserved in the names like Psylli, Massyli and 
Masaesyles. 28 (Zel, Jel or Kel is a modem Berber root meaning clan.). 
Procopius implies that these Masaesyles, and Massyli who lived in the ancient 
kingdom of Numidia were Moors and Gaitules trained by a leader named 
Massinissa to be soldiers. 29 

The Luwata were a prominent tribe mentioned in Arab writings. They were 
the Levathes or Ilagwathes and Leucada spoken of by Procopius and Corippus 
and others. Corippus of the 6th century A.D. who speaks of the Lagwathes 
says that among them were a pitiless tribe called Ausuriani otherwise called 
Astures or Astacures. 29 They also lived in Ethiopia. 30 The Luwata had several 
sub-tribes, including Mazikes. Procopius says that they were a tribe of the 
Maurusioi who occupied the area of Tripoli and Tunis while other Maures 
lived in Byzacium and Numidia. The Moors were said by Procopius to have 

colonized parts of the Iberian peninsula over a thousand years before. 

The Libyan races shared various customs some of which were admirable 
while others inspired less appreciation. They were, like the men and women 
of Arabia, accustomed to raiding and pillage especially from the desert 
fringes. The historian Diodorus in the 1st century B.C. spoke of the Gaitules 
as a people who made robbery their constant practice, attacking unexpectedly 
from the desert. Nonnus calls the Maures a people of the desert “stung with 
mad lust of robber welfare.” Tacitus describes the Garamantes as an ungov- 
ernable tribe "always engaged in practicing brigandage on their neighbors." 

Another custom shared by the Libyans was the penchant for dwelling in 
caverns and grottos. Pausanius said that the Libyans lived in huts and in 
natural caverns and in man-made grottoes. Such people were found among 
the Gaitules and Pharusii. Strabo said that certain of the Pharusii, then in 
southern Morocco lived in grottoes that they built. Such people in “Arabia” 
and “Ethiopia” east of the Nile were named Trogodytes. Herodotus mentions 
that the Ethiopian Trogodytes also lived in the Fezzan area of Libya. The 
Mauri Mazazeces or Mezikes in he area of Tripoli and Tunis were called 
’’Ethiopians” in an ancient roman document entitled the Exposition Totius 
Mundi . 30 It is these Maures who composed the African or Ethiopian luxury 
slaves as Rome, where they were called Amazegzeg and Amazik. 

The lifestyle of the Libyans and their appearance apparently differed little 
from those nomadic peoples east of the Nile. Strabo who lived between 63 or 
64 B.C. and 23 A.D. spoke of the Maurusians as a people who braided their 
hair, grew beards, wore hair ornaments, paired their nails, fought mostly with 
javelins, rode bareback and wore skins of leopards and lions. He said that they 
dressed like their neighbors, the Masaesyli of Numidia, and like most of the 
Libyan tribes in general. 31 

Later the Moors are described by Procopius as a people “who lived in huts 
and wear a thick cloak and a rough shirt at all times. They also had camels, 
shields, javelins and swords.” The men wore earrings in one ear. They dwelt 
in Byzacium, Tripolitania and Numidia and their women uttered oracles in 
trance-like states and foretold the future. 

Mauri Gensani or Quinquegentiani are mentioned as nomadic tribes be- 
tween Barka in Libya and the Shotts region of Algeria. The later name for the 
Maures of Barka are Luata (Levathes or Ilagwathes). Corripus mentions them 
in the 6th century as carrying a long sword with a short sword attached to the 
arm. 32 It is the custom of modern Beja and other Cushitic and Nilo-saharan 
speaking tribes of the Eastern Sudan to carry these arm or wrist daggers and at 
times long swords. 

The Maures are also known to have been ruled by female chiefs, holy 
women or queens even in the time of the Islamization of North Africa. 
Procopius mentions that they often rode in chariots into battle with the men, 
helping them with their arms of iron. The original Amazons were said to have 


Golden Age of the Moor 




a F rer n etro!! e n T r a t ,0 T UP , 0rtrayed here ‘ n an andent E ^P tian tomb Pointing 

r fh P f ay L,byans - The f,rst mention of I them was in the northern 

Howar) TheTV^"^ CaMed SUdan " ear the area StHI Called Tama Wadi 
Howar). The early L.byans controlled a caravan route running from Darfur 

in modern Sudan to Northern Libya passing through the different oases in the 

uS:: jet of ,he Nil " Men ,n Nor,her " s - d “" sti " — 

been Libyan women and the war Goddess Athena was supposedly from 
Libya. Diodorus Siculus wrote about the Amazons in the area of Hespera “it 
was the custom for women to practice the arts of war and to serve in the army 
for a fixed time.. .and if it happened that a girl was bom, its breasts were seared 
that they might not develop at the time of maturity; for they thought that the 
breasts, as they stood out from the body, were no small hindrance in warfare.” 33 
Two different European missionaries in 16th century Ethiopia describe this 
same custom among certain tribes there. Of the young girls it was said the 
elders seared off one of the breasts with a hot iron while they were young, in 
order not to impede drawing the arrow. They rode on camels and were great 
archers. 34 

Saharan rock drawings seem to display women with a single breast. 
Herodotus had spoken of a custom of the women of the Libyans called 
Auseans who had a kind of ritual fight with stones and clubs in honour of 
Athena or Minerva. The girdle of Athena, according to him, was taken from 
the goat skin or aegis worn by the Libyan women. This is worn by Ethiopian 
women to this day. 35 

Between the sea and the Gaitules, extending from the Atlas mountains to 
the Syrtis Major in Libya were men “with many wives and children” who “in 
many respects were like the nomadic Arabians.” They are described as 
plaiting their hair, polishing their teeth, filing their nails, wearing gold orna- 
ments and they rarely touched one another as they walked “so that they 
wouldn’t disturb the arrangement of their hair which held totemic sanctity. 
“They followed horse breeding with exceptional interest.” 36 A very similar 
description is given of the Nasamones in Libya by Gabrinius within the same 
century. “They wear gold ornaments, they polish their teeth and file their 
nails. We very seldom see them touch one another as they stroll around for 
they do not like their hair dressing disturbed. Their horse-borne warriors have 
spears and swords, they wear unbelted robes and some use war chariots. They 
have many wives and children and resemble the wandering shepherds of 
Arabia.” 37 But instead of “plaiting” their hair, “they curled it.” (Curling the 
hair with hot irons was a practice of the Nubians as well). The Nasamones 
foretold the future by going to lay on the graves of their ancestors. 

The semi-nude and completely nude state was a mark of the Libyans at the 
time of Christ. Nasamonians were seen nude as often as they were seen in 
robes. Garamantes and Pharusii were described as a people wandering about 
half-nude and nude which is how the Libyans were often portrayed in early 
Egyptian iconography and Saharan rock art. The Garamantes, Nasamonians, 
Pharusii and Maurusioi were accustomed to using small war chariots as well 
as four-horsed chariots. 

Thus the early demographers in the first few centuries A.D. commented on 
several facets of the lifestyle common to tribes located in North Africa under 
various names. These traits included their preoccupation with desert raids. 



Golden Age of the Moor 


horse rearing, hygiene and hair dressing, their access to gold and its usage in 
accessorizing their dress, their “polygamous” social relations which the Greeks 
interpreted as a form of promiscuity and the social status and liberty of Libyan 
women and their resemblance to the wandering tribes of Arabia. 

The last but certainly not the least important of the distinguishing features 
which the early Greeks and Romans ascribe to the Libyans is a black com- 
plexion which was sometimes said to be accompanied by a reddish cast. All of 
the most important Libyan tribes are described as black-skinned. Martial, 
Corripus, Procopius, Juvenal and Silius Italicus refer to the Maures as black- 
skinned. 38 Polemon in his Physiognomical Scriptures and Admantius “con- 
fused” the Libyans with the Ethiopians because of their like color. 39 They were 
also at times described as “light of build” and “woolly haired.” 

The predominant type in ancient East Africa, like those of ancient Nubia, 
Egypt and Arabia, were basically a lightly built, gracile or lanky type which is 
typical of the many of the pastoralists of Abyssinia and Erythraea extending 
to Northern Kenya and some of the tribes of modern Arabia. The description 
of the wandering tribes of North Africa from the earliest periods to early 
Medieval times recalls the phenotypical attributes and customs typical of the 
peoples of the speakers of the Cushitic and Nilosaharan dialects as well as 
pastoral Fulani and other Sahelian pastoralists. This is borne out by the 
skeletal evidence found in the Sahara and Fezzan eras dating from the era of 
the Garamantes and even before. 

Libyan Ethnohistory Before the 5th Century A.D. 

In the reign of Ramses II (19th dynasty, 13th century B.C.) the name of 
Libou or the Libyans first appears. The garments of the Libou chiefs were 
garments which are decorated similarly to those of the Tamehou whose name 
appears as early as the 6th dynasty several centuries eariler. 40 Tjemehu or 
Tamehou , as I have stated before, occupied the oases adjacent to Nubia in 
Sudan and presumably Kharga in the western desert in southern Egypt. At Es 
Sebua in Nubia an inscription tells of the Temehou who in the 5th year of 
Merneptah (19th dynasty) led a raid against Egypt under the Temehou Maraye, 
son of Ded, along with other Libyans called Kehek and the “peoples of the 
Sea.” 41 It was the Libou who, as a branch of the Temehou, launched invasions 
against the Egyptian dynasty of Merneptah. They did so in alliance with the 
descendants of the non-African Sea peoples who were of Euro-Asian origin. 
These Euro-Asians are also represented in Egyptian iconography of the 

The name of one king of the Libou of that time was Meshken. It is, 
according to Bates, the same as the much later name of the Numidian king 
called Misagenes by the Romans, a son of a ruler named Massinissa of the 

Figure 3 Portraval of ancient Saharan shepherd. This man with throwing 
stick painted face, and uraeus before his brow lived in the ancient Tassili 
region of Algeria, where the Garamantes once roamed. 


Golden Age of the Moor 



3rd century B.C., and in Berber, according to him, would mean “son of 
heaven.” 42 

The existence of kings among the Numidians and Mauri “is first directly 
attested to at the end of the 5th century before Christ,” about the same time 
Herodotus wrote of the Libyans. 43 By the end of the 3rd century B.C. the 
kingdoms of the Masaesyli (who are one of the Libyans mentioned by 
Herodotus) and Massyli “had emerged from among the Mauri” in the western 
part of North Africa. 44 Some of the names of the rulers of the Maures as 
named by Procopius and others seem to reflect their ethnic affinity with the 
so-called “hamitic” stock of Ethiopia and Sudan, especially modem Cushitic 
speakers. Gaia, Bagoda, Acallis, Baga are reminiscent of the present names 
for rulers, chiefs and princes not only among modem Tuarek or Berbers but 
Nilotic and Cushitic tribes of East Africa. Gaia was probably Kaya among 
Berbers and Kushites and the same Qe means ruler in Meroe (Nubia). Acallis 
or Agallid, is Aguellid or Okel of the Berbers and Kel of the East African area. 
Bagoda is prince or religious head as is Bukharis of ancient Nubia and the 
modern Cushites, a legendary Hausa king and god of the Nilo-saharan Teda. 

In the 4th century A.D. the Mauri Bauers or Bavares are mentioned along 
with the Quinquegentiani or Mauri Gensani and Frexus (Afer or Ifuraces) as 
breaking into the Moroccan area of ancient Numidia. The Bavares or Baueres 
are also called Bavares of the Kabyli (or Kabyles). It was one of the Kabyle 
chieftains, Gildo (whose name is the Berber title Gallid or Aguellid) whom 
Claudian complained about when he spoke of all the “hideous Ethiopian 
hybrids” being conceived with the Roman women. Gildo belonged to a family 
of rebellious rulers of the Kabylian Bavares who were Mauri Baueres of other 
texts. 45 He had a brother named Mascezel, which is Amazegzel, the modem 
Berber or Tuareg tribal name. 

In the east were other descendants of the Lebou. Herodotus describes a 
Libyan contingent in the Persian army 480 B.C. using wooden spears. After 
the death of Xerxes, the Persian king of the 5th century B.C., Ianheru (Inaros) 
chief of the Adyrmakidae (or Adyrmalekhidae) in alliance this time with the 
Greeks, led a revolt against the Achaemenids of Persia who were in control of 
Egypt. 46 The Libyan Adyrmachidae had a nymph named Amphithemis as 
their ancestress, as did the Psylli, and Machyles, according to the ancient 
writer Agrostus. That name may be connected with that of the Akkadian water 
goddess Tiamat. 

In the 1st century B.C. Diodorus Siculus stated that in northern Tunisia, a 
lieutenant of a Greek tyrant from Syracuse called Agathocles overcame a 
people in the 4th century B.C. whose skin color “was like that of the Ethio- 
pians.” 47 In the time of this invasion “Libyans” called Massyles were in 
control of the Tunisian area. These indigenous Libyan tribesmen were later 
called Afri or Afer, Afaricani or Frexus by the Romans and Maures or 
Maurusioi. The writings of Pliny, Josephus, Cleodemus and later Arab tradi- 

tion all say that they both came across Africa with Hercules and by way of the 
Red Sea or Berber region now called Abyssinia and Erithrea and imply that 
they were associated with the incense-trading peoples on both sides of the 
Red Sea. Perhaps the name of the present day Afar in Djibouti and Ethiopia is 
connected. Certain Tuareg tribes especially in Niger still call their ancestors 

Although Carthage which was in the area of Tunis was a Phoenician 
(Punic) colony, mostly Libyans like the Afar composed the Carthaginian 
army; native Carthaginians formed a very small portion of the troops. 48 The 
Egyptian portrayal of Carthaginian soldiers leave no question as to the “Ethio- 
pian-like” appearance of the “Libyans” or North Africans of that area and era. 
Sometimes Greek and Gaulic mercenaries were used as well. 

The Afaricani in particular had learned new military techniques serving as 
heavy infantry in the Punic army and the best light infantry troops were 
javelin throwers recruited from the Numidians and Mauri...” who were the 
inhabitants of Northern Algeria and what is now called Morocco. “They 
adopted municipal institutions of Carthage but frequently revolted against 
Carthaginian rule.” 49 This had happened once after the Carthaginians aban- 
doned a large force of Libyans in Sicily a few centuries before Christ. 

Before the rise of the Carthaginian statesman, Hanno, in the 3rd century 
B.C., Carthage as the Phoenician colony, had been paying tribute to the 
surrounding Libyans. After this period, during the time of Hamilcar Barca and 
his son Hannibal, (who incidentally in ancient texts was called Hannibal the 
Afer), Carthage was holding sway over the area. Numidians and other Liby- 
ans went with the Afar or Afra warriors, led by Hannibal, across the Alps to 
subjugate the Romans who were becoming a formidable and unbearable 
presence in Africa. Several centuries later after the 6th century A.D., descen- 
dants of these tribes under the name of Beni Ifren or Ifuras (Afer), Mazighzel, 
Luwata, Goddula (Gaitules) and Kitama or Imakitan (Makidae) swept into 
Europe in the name of Mohammed. 

The present day names of the dark-colored Tuareg tribes of Iforas or Kel 
Faruwan around Ghat in Libya and Asben in Niger and elswhere are the same 
as those of the peoples called Beni Ifren in Algeria by the Arabs and are the 
Ifuraces or Frexus of Pliny, Aferi of Tunisia and the Pharusii of the Atlas in 
Morocco of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Beni Ifren mentioned in 
Arab writings were found in the area of Tlemcen near Oran in northwest 
Algeria quite close to Morocco and in the Gharian in western Libya. Repre- 
sentations of chariots from Hoggar to southern Oran through southern Mo- 
rocco and the western High Atlas may be associated with them. 50 

The Iforas, Iforaces or Frexus in the Tunisian area in Pliny’s time are the 
reason why the name Afrika originally denoted the Tunisian area. Historians 
know that one of the earliest mentions of the camel in North Africa first 
appears in association with a Berber people called Zenata whom were com- 


Golden Age of the Moor 



prised of the Ifuras and other tribes, (see below) The Zenata also early 
occupied the Cyrene area of the country now called Libya during the Roman 
era. The word Afra and Afer came to be used for a time for black Africans 
according to Rogers. 

Mauri Mezikes are mentioned as a small nation of “Ethiopians” in the area 
of Tripoli and Tunis in the 4th century A.D. 51 In the 4th and 5th centuries, the 
Mezikes who were called a fierce “Libyan” people and who had ravaged the 
oases next to Egypt and the Fezzan area (Libya) were said by Evagrius to be in 
allegiance with the Blemmyes of Nubia. The word Blemmyes comes from 
Belhmt, the Coptic word for the Bedja or Bedouin tribes of the Nubian desert. 
The Mezikes were the people called Levathes by Procopius and Corripus by 
the 6th century. They are said to have among them the pitiless pillaging 
Astacures or Astrikes who were mentioned earlier as being inhabitants of both 
Ethiopia and Libya. 52 

It is possible that the Austura and Mezikes were the same as the people 
called Blemmyes in Ethiopia whose rulers were called Ilam Meshi. In any 
case it is known that the Luwata tribes are in part the ancestors of the modern 
Tuarek. The people of the Astures or Astrikes are known under similar names 
today. From their name probably comes the modern name of the Tuarek who 
are also called Tura or Targi depending on the region. Some suppose, however, 
that the name Tuarek is the same as the Arab word meaning tribe. The Tuareg 
are a confederation of Berber tribes whose men wear veils and turbans. They 
are camel-owners now dwelling in the Saharan and Sahel areas. The descrip- 
tion of the Austures as fierce and much feared pillagers is one that was quite 
appropriate for the Tuareg to the beginning of this century. Their nobles are 
still called Imoshagh or Amazighen (Mazikes). In fact Imoshagh is a generic 
term for Berber nobles. Tamashek the language of the Tuareg means belong- 
ing to the Mashek or Mezikes. 

In their least modified form they are dark-brown in color, tall and lanky, 
with elongated limbs, long faces and narrow noses and an extreme long 
headedness which one noted historian felt was due to having migrated from 
their “hamitic homeland in East Africa.’ 53 The Tuareg women “marry at will, 
speak in council, serve as heads of encampments, hold property, govern the 
home.” The children take on the name and rank of their mothers. Tuareg 
women, rather than men, teach their children to write. They are found in areas 
extending from Mauretania through Mali and Algeria to Chad and Libya. The 
Tuareg have many customs and features in common with the Bedja Cushites 
which may speak for a common region of origination, (see section on Bedja 
ethnicity below). 

Figure 4. Chariot drawings from the Air region of Niger. Chariot representa- 
tions appear throughout the Sahara. They were commonly used by the Libyo- 
Berbers including Garamantes, Maures and Pharusii. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

The Fulani as Gaitules 

Probably the best living example in North Africa of those originally 
nomadic peoples called Libyans are the modern day “red” or pastoral Fulani 
(as opposed to the settled Fulani) especially belonging to the area of Niger and 
Mali. Though they themselves are probably descendants of only one of the 
waves of Libyans from the east, they represent the black Berber or hamitic” 
prototype which has existed in the Sahara for at least 5,000 years. At Jabbaren 
the rock art shows cattle transporting the armature of huts which is a practice 
maintained by the Fulani and the head gear, clothing, and most typical 
physical characteristics of the human figures of the pastoral period are said to 
resemble the present day Fulani. 54 They have, except for their language, many 
habits of dress and accoutrements in common with Somali and Rendili and at 
times a strong familial resemblance to Cushitic peoples in general. 

These nomads are one of the few tribes whose attire still resembles the long 
garments worn by the Libyans on ancient Egyptian tomb paintings after the 
New Empire. On these garments are the same designs that appear on C- group 
pottery and m Libyan tatoos. 55 They also wear the same hats and peculiar 
Libyan side lock and other coiffures shown in representations of ancient 
Libyans. They still practice the burning of the temples of infants which 
Herodotus mentions as being common to all Libyans. They often have a 
hairstyle m which they leave their hair long in the back like the ancient 
Libyans called Machlyes. Their women wear their hair in a crest like the 
Cushitic speakers and the other Berbers of the southern Sahara which was 
said to be typical of Libyan women. This form of hairdress is shown often in 
ancient rock art now m the Sahara (It was apparently a very ancient practice 
and of totemic or religious significance: It is found among dark-skinned 
Y emeni women as well). 

The pastoral Fulani are the only people in West Africa who milk their cattle 

and though they have recently been touched by modernization, rarely did they 

raise cattle for food. (The ancient Libyans did not eat the cow, considering 

ZT/u). Llke many traditionaI Cushitic and Nilo-saharan peoples they 

sreaf aff^T each , of the members of their herds by name and treat them with 
great attection and respect. 56 

Go?d:,a F ttl, TakrUr - re CElled Beni Warith or Waritan of the B eni 

Mauretanian KinaJ? 'h ? e Annales Regnum Mauretanie (Annals of the 
lived in the Ml Wdting of el Bekri - 5? They were said to have once 

eartr Gatlfnf .h p 13 " ^ G ° ddala is the Arab Pronunciation of the 
of the I ihva -k R . oman hls tonans. The Gaitules were the most populous 

same' time CentUry AD ) Jose P hus a ™"d the 
peoples of an? T? tbat , they were the same as the Evalioi of Kush or the 
might exnla u Aval,s ( Hevila )- the Zeila of present-day Somalia, which 
region's * U ' ani t0d3y reSemWe 50 much the People of that 



The Goddala were considered one of the major Berber tribes by Arab 
writers and the brethren of the Anbiya (Anbat) and Sanhaja or Berbers of the 
Maghrib. Furthermore, when the Fulani were first encountered by European 
colonists, they spoke more than one language. One of these is connected to 
other West African languages. The other one, however, was considered 
different enough for the explorers to speculate that it was more related to 
dialects outside of Africa. 

If the Fulani as suggested by El Bekri and the Mauretanian Annals were 
Goddala, then it is most likely their ancestors are the same as those of the 
Cushitic speakers who now inhabit the Horn of Africa and that are also the 
same as the lightly built, Libyan Gaitules who lived further North during the 
Roman era and took part in the founding of Numidia. 

C-groups as Ancestors of the Eastern Libyans 

There is a strong resemblance, according to a number of scholars, between 
the ancient prehistoric culture of the Southern Sahara and those of the ancient 
pastoral cultures in Nubia especially represented by the C-group population. 
One specialist in African archaeology, David Phillipson, has relatively re- 
cently stated that the affinities of C-group pottery strongly suggest a Saharan 
origin. 59 However Gabriel Camps before this had shown that ancient Saharan 
industries possessed close affinity with the neolithic industries of the Nilotic 
area. The rock art of the Tassili region of Algeria and also in Ennedi of Chad 
and the Tibesti region, a pastoral period between the 4th and 3rd milleniums 
B.C., depicted cattle with horns deformed and with curious pendants typical 
of those of the Nubian, especially C-group area and further east. Fine sculp- 
tured cattle and other anthropomorphic cult figurines appear at the sites as 
they do East of the Nile. The men are often represented, according to Camps, 
as men resembling the Fulani, slim with dark complexions and small pointed 
beards rather like those portrayed in rock art of the Arabian desert spoken of 
by Anati. Ancient stone tumulus graves in the western part of the Southern 
Sahara are reminiscent of those built by C-group. 60 

The territory of the Tamehou or Tjemehu has been suggested to have 
corresponded to the general area of of the C-group populations who occupied 
the Libyan desert of Sudan and parts of Nubia. 61 Both A. Arkell and Bates had 
come to conclude that the C-group Nubians represented a Libyan people. A. 
Arkell and Bates also felt the people of this culture (C-group) were the 
Libyans whom the Egyptians called Tjemehu, who are mentioned as early as 
a 6th dynasty inscription in a land to the south of Egypt. 62 C-Group pottery has 
been found in the Gilf Kebir in Libya and the Wadi Howar to the west of 
Nubia in the Libyan desert. 63 C-group people were also affiliated with the 
kingdom of Kerma in Nubia. 

The C-group material “affords several representations of the human fig- 



Golden Age of the Moor 


Figure 5. Modern Fulani men also called Peul or Fellata. In Arab writings they 

turbans 'a 7""™ S T haja ° f G ° ddala (Gaitulian) stock. They wear the 

urbans and hats commonly worn by the ancient Libyans and Saharans. 

ure.” Some are wearing crossbands which were “so frequent” in Egyptian 
portrayals of the Libyans. Bates also found correlations between the designs 
on C-group pottery and ancient Libyan tattoo-marks (both of which he 
illustrates in his book, The Eastern Libyans). He also notes that one of the 
female figures represented on the pottery was a woman wearing a kirtle like 
the Libyan women are shown wearing in the ancient Egyptian portrayals. 64 

In addition, the fact that there was a cow cultus in the C-group complex 
which was “paralleled” by the Libyans; the similarities in “material culture”; 
and the fact that the C-group cemetaries were in a district geographically 
connected with the Egyptian oases are factors which he finds to be evidence 
of the Libyan connection of these remains. C-Group populations skeletally, 
according to Bates, bore an indubitable resemblance to those of ancient 
Egypt, but became increasingly mixed with other African populations. The 
pottery of the later Meroitic period retained resemblances with that of the C- 

Other modem specialists have come to asssociate the spread of C-group 
with the early radiation of Nilo-Saharan speaking peoples. 65 The huts of Nilo- 
Saharan speaking tribes living in modem Ethiopia resemble those pictured on 
a Meroitic vase at Karanog. The Nilotic peoples create small cattle cult 
figurines and deform the horns of their cattle as do the Cushites. It is likely 
that the Nilo-Saharans, like the Teda and Zaghawa groups and Masai, who 
physically have been described as “half-hamites,” and whose pastoral culture 
shows many resemblances to modern day Cushitic or ancient Trogodytes of 
the Red Sea nations emerged from a confluence of distinguishable African 
physical types in the Nubian area, and moved at different times westward and 
then south and eastward carrying religious and ontological notions, customs 
and varying degrees of technology of the Kerma and Meroitic kingdoms with 
them. 66 

Archaeological Evidence for the Nubian Affiliation of the Berbers 

Just as other nomadic peoples like Nilo-saharans anciently and more 
recently the Fulani have extended themselves across the Sudan from Senegal 
to East Africa, it seems ancient Nubian nomads originating east of the Nile 
ancestral to modern Beja and Afar, had from an early period spread them- 
selves over the North African area between the Atlantic and Red sea, retaining 
their names. To them may have been due the horse chariot and later the camel 
and veil in North Africa. 

As Oric Bates, writer of The Eastern Libyans pointed out, the stone tumulus 
graves of Nubia typical of C-group and Pan- Grave culture closely resemble 
the type found in the Western Sahara called by the Tuareg regem or argem. 67 
The tombs regularly measuring 8 to 10 meters in diameter contained burials in 


Golden Age of the Moor 

whieh the bodies are found in a contracted position. Offering niches were 
outside the super-structure of the tombs in both the Nubian and Shiran 

S Sefmh n n h ° te ’ I 3 ' n ° ted th3t th6Se graves found * location o5r 
in Sefrah, Oranais, Cyrenaica in the Adrar n’lforas and in the Aznar Tassili 

tombs 6 " 3 reCall ? e present ' da y geographical situation of the Tuafeg These 
^mbs are considered rather late in date, later than the pastoralift phase 
mentioned previously in date, but pre-Islamic. 68 P P se 

rnJJSf !° mbS alS ° StUdied by Camps and described by him as beine 
ade of stones of diverse dimensions, circumscribed at the base by a ranee of 

inNorth^Af th , eearth - They are the most Sequent of burial monunLj 


posibon P Y W3S f ° Und n ° rmally in the customar y retracted 

_ c amps said this type of tomb with niches or chapels was built bv the 
withlaver ° r , chan °t usin § Ber bers, whom he describes as warriors aLed 

"Sr W T" 8 rS; 

sinele wSl f f 1 Cush ' tll>s P eakin g Beja and Danakil (Afar) who wear a 
teket-WOTk matrix which showed close similarity to Jotle™ made ontekets 

Saham °” 8 ^ S ° ma "' “ d D “ akil »n "as Js now Ted ifte 

Sahman^whhme^Ch^fsrianhN^h 88 '! 61186 a ' S ° SUggeSB of 

(called Tifinagh) on rock paintinm w , ? scn P tlons “ the T »areg writing 
camels which are commnnlv 8 a e fouad in association with depictions of 
anciently with represent Y U f d u now b y both the Tuareg and Teda and 
riors who are depicted thro" 5 h W at . Camps caIls the evolved Libyan war- 
sometimes associated with "if & ltn ‘f n g ular sc bematism. The figures are 
triangle is re ^StaH!? lh f , S n, ? and ° ther trian S Ie configurations. The 
probably in early Ervthm ° tf 0 ”!' The hom in Saharan parlance, and 

symbolically w U (land* Ii cm! fip^h° "il S ' & i! C CUltUre ’ in general > is associated 
Pommel colled of th el ^ ‘ ^ ° r fire altar ‘ 7116 Tuareg saddle 

on Nubian pottery At Naga’IThe Ite.r" 65 if tnple pronged aItars 

handles exactly like the d f oId weapons with cruciform 

triangles compr'i’singlhel chests"’ th* Sahara there are 3 fi g ure s with 2 

resembling certain mouthlessfl 316 faCeS with lon § pointed ears, 

S enam mouthless faces with long ears, on Karanog pottery in 



Nubia. At Ouan Bender a hut made of triangles is associated with a camel. 
Certain of the Adebuni tombs of the desert show horned or antennaed tombs 
reminiscent of these same mouthless faces. 72 

The designs on Nubian pottery at Karanog circa the 4th-3rd century A.D. 
and elsewhere consist of triangles and homed altars and the trident. Rock 
drawings of horned altars appear in Nubia at Tafa or on pottery. Sometimes 
they are decorated altars with a pedestal and horns on X-group (Nobataean) 
pottery. Those that appeared in Southern Egypt, the homed altars, are ascribed 
to the Blemmyes by Hans Winkler. These altars were considered to be 
connected with the Table of the Sun of the Macrobian Ethiopians, mentioned 
by Homer (8th century B.C.) and Herodotus, who had their houses under 
ground like the later Ethiopian ..Trogodytes called Megabari mentioned by 
Strabo, Diodorus and others several centuries later, who were most likely the 
same people. 73 

Bedja Ethnicity and Origins 

As mentioned previously the group of people called Astures or Astrikes 
who were said to be native to both Ethiopia and Libya may be the forebearers 
of those first to be called Tuarek and Tura and Dirku in Africa. It is most 
likely that the migration that brought the camel and veil came into North 
Africa from the area East of the Nile long after the introduction of the horse. 74 
J. A. Rogers said that the Berbers claim descent from the tribes who were 
called the Matzoi (Madjayu) in Nubia. This correlates well with the statement 
made by Ibn Khaldun, of the origination of the Tuareg of the Maghreb or 
veiled Berbers in the riff area of Abyssinia. 

Even in the rather famous Sudanese work “Infaq al-Masuri, ” Mohamed 
Bello claimed that the Tuareg or “Beri-beri are the remnant of the Berbers 
who lived between Zinj and Habash” which was the Afar area. There is a 
considerable mass of historical evidence to suggest that the Tuareg were in 
part a westward extension of the “Ethiopian” Trogodytes known in more 
remote times as Blemmyes, Bedja and Madjayu or Medid and Afar, and that 
they were the people who brought a type of tomb common to both Abyssinia 
and the Nile to the Sahara. 

Certain archaeologists have identified the Madjayu and Blemmyes with the 
cultural complex called Pan-Grave in Nubia which showed close affinities to 
the C-group complex. 75 The Madjayu (or Medid in late texts) people who 
occupied Nubia and the desert mainly East of the Nile were the soldier caste 
or policemen used by the ancient Egyptians. They are considered ancestral to 
the ancient Blemmyes or modern Bedja who are Cushitic speaking nomadic 
pastoralists who lived in skin tents. They were matrilineal, had camels and 
innumerable cattle and sheep. The word Bedja is the same as Bediyat or 
Bedawi from which comes the word Bedouin. It was a name of the tribes of 


Golden Age of the Moor 

the Eastern de s ert of Sudan in the time of the Arab writers especially. 

Modern Bedja Afar and other Cushites occupy the same areas near the Red 
Sea as Peoples anciently called Trogodytes. They were a people men- 
tioned by Agatharcides, Diodorus and Strabo. The country of the Beia was 
called, according to a Saidi (southern Egyptian Arab) lexicon, mentioned by 
Quatremere m the second volume of his Memoires sur U’Egypte Ta-aurek This 
was most probably the area of Twarek, mentioned in theTme’ 
as a region which had been invaded by an Egyptian army 
And the countries of the Trogodytes were the same as ihose called Berber 

otherf caiwf TheSe f . were pe ° P ’ e whom accordi ng to Agatharcides and 
others called their mothers, sheep and their fathers, rams. They were cir- 

cumcized and drank milk mixed with blood. They buried their dead under 
erected mounds of stones capped with the horns of their cattle. At funerals 
aughing took place. They often made their homes among rocks and ravines or 
grottos as do some of the present day Afar tribes. It has been surmised that 
heir name came to be a punning homophone for a cave-dweller or one who 
dwells under ground or in grottos because the word came to be spelled with an 
1 as Troglodyte. (Trogle in Greek means hole.) 76 

Trogodytes occupied the coastal regions along both sides of the Red Sea In 
their country was the land of Punt now identified as the modem day Mersa 

Srirr to 7 in th ® horn ° f Africa - There wa§ p unt 

Opone) further south around the time of the Christian era and Mogadeshu was 
said to have been called the “Pearl of the land of Punt.” According to Strabo 

Troa J ? f OUp0 5 Tr ° 8odytes Iived on the African side of the Red Sea (for 
ogodytes inhabited both sides) were called Erembi. There were, however 

aSlIoi o°r F te °u? edja Pe ° pleS; the most im P ortant being called Megabari 

(whoJ oelT, 1 am ° n§ WH °u m WCre 3 pe ° ple CaIled Belhmt or Blemmyes 

twno were perhaps the same as the Bolgoi). J 

andNnS^Sf 6 Practices „ reca11 those of Present day Cushites 
the ancient I ihvT ? I especiall y and t0 a certain extent the Libyans as 
grottos Modern da^r TT have dwelled in caverns and man-made 
LsaT Kararnl y r ltes 3nd Nilo ‘ Sal “ speakers like the Nandi, 
blood Bonao E" 8, T’ Bati ’ ° f S0Uthern Sudan drink milk mixed with 

5!£ in.T’ 0fi r,r d ^ t* ° f stones N “ di * 

of the Cushites. 77 * P “ P ' P ” ca,,le hor " s on the torabs «s *> some 

speakerefth^Nobr^T f ,h ' 'f Suda ” ic b ' anch ot ,he Nilo-s.ha,an 

peonies'! Lvk. t ^ ’. the Tama and Da J u and Nilotic Masai-Samburu, Shilluk 

fr<Jm ‘ he Nile ^ in or near Nubia I, 

about by Col T u h , "ow inhabit Uganda, were first written 

dialect to the M-Jm ^ ’i ingU1StS C ° Uld only find a relationship of their 
uiaiect to the Middle Kingdom Egyptian dialect. 7 ® 

r ell mentioned also colonies of potters who speak a Nilo-Saharan 



dialect and are called Tama living in the North of Sudan traditionally said to 
be from Bir Natrun a place which is now desert. The designs on their pottery 
“imitate” those of C-Group pottery. 79 As stated before the huts of Nilo-Sa- 
haran speakers in Ethiopia have been noted to bear resemblance to those on a 
Meroitic vase. 80 

Among the remaining grotto dwellers further west are the Nilo-Saharan 
Tibbu/Teda. Pliny, Strabo and others refer to Trogodytes of Tassili in Algeria 
and in the Anti-Atlas range in Morocco. The Pharusii (Iforas) are the Libyans 
whom Strabo says lived in caves or grottoes and were in this region. They are 
mentioned in the south of Morocco by Salluste. 

The Ancient Fezzanis as a Nilo-Saharan People 

The Romans speaking of one of their slaves who happened to be a 
Garamantian described him as “black as pitch.” The Garamantes had a sub- 
tribe called the Tedamansii who lived south of the Syrtis. Seth Bemadete also 
gives Gamphasantes as an alternative name for the Garamantes. They claimed 
to be descendants of the earth bom Garama. The Tedamensii, Gamphasantes 
and Nasamones all of Libya and Fezzan were considered a related people. The 
Garamantes who were named after their capital were spread to “Lake Nouba 
One of the Ptolemies also described the Garamantes as “somewhat black” and 
“more likely Ethiopians” rather than of Libyan origin. 81 Such descriptions 
correlate well with the skeletal remains of the Garamantian area. 

They had been called by Tacitus invincible. They were involved in the 
trade in salt and gold across the Sahara and their trading extended far to the 
east in Nubia and to the Carthaginian area and far to the North in Tunisia. 
According to Robert Graves, the Garamantes were established in the Djado 
Oasis in Niger from an early period as well. 82 Transsaharan trading contacts 
of the Carthaginians were carried on through the Garamantes who occupied 
oases connecting the most direct route between their brethren the Nasamones 
to the North and Central Africa. (The Nasamones and Garamantes were both 
said to be descendants of the same eponymic ancestor Garamas.) 

The names of the sub-tribes of the Libyans called Garamantes, who occu- 
pied the kingdom of Germa, and whom Ptolemy II suspected to be Ethiopians, 
recalls the names of the modem Zaghawa peoples called Teda and Garawan 
or Goran. The Nilo-Saharans speakers called Teda, Garawa’an or Zaghawa 
called ahel Gara by the Tuareg are found in desolate comers of the Sahara. 
They have a homogeneous, unique, physical type, similar manners and customs, 
social attitudes and gestures. They inhabit many of the oases in the southern 
Sahara, including Uweinat, Kufra, the Kawar and Tibetsi the Northern parts 
of Chad and Sudan, and are accustomed to raiding and trading over great 
distances. 84 They seem to be the remnant of the ancient Ethiopian peoples 
extending between Fezzan and the Nubian kingdoms, who in the desert were 


Golden Age of the Moor 

called Trogodytes, and who as town dwellers founded the town of Germa or 
Garama, which in the Teda-Kanuri dialects means place of the Gara. It is 
plausible that the name of the town and kingdom of Kerma was an earlier 
form of the word. 

The Zaghawa or Teda dialects are closely related to that of the modem day 
Kanuri who are partially Teda in origin. Recently a J. Sharman has pointed to 
some “interesting correspondences” between ancient Meroitic and Kanuri 
languages. 85 These people after the destruction of the kingdom of the 
Garamantes had founded the kingdom of the Zaghawa next to the Nobataean 
kingdom of Nubia. 

It is known that the ancient Nouba, or Nobatae who are probably ancestral 
to modern Nilo-Saharan speakers, still called Noba, living in southern Egypt 
and Northern Sudan (not to be confused with the Nuba of the Kordofan hills) 
were descendants of ancient people of the Kharga oasis in modem-day Egypt. 
The Annoubades or Noba were imported into Ethiopia or Nubia from the 
Kharga Oasis to check the movements of the nomads called Blemmyes 
(Bedja) in the time of the Byzantine control of Nubia. 86 According to Silius 
Italicus they were a race “blackened by the sun.” 87 

As mentioned by Robert Graves the Garamantes were considered to be a 
Kushite Berber people. We know the Garamantes traded in precious stones or 
carbuncles with the peoples of ancient Ethiopia (Nubia). The type of cist 
burial found in ancient Garamantian towns of the Fezzan which are the most 
ancient cairn type found and spread throughout the Northern Sahara are 
associated with roughly “hollowed stone bowls reminiscent of those of the 
southeastern Sahara.” 88 Hundreds of foggaras have been found in the area of 
Wadi El Agial testifying to their skill in hydraulics. Pyramids that are typical 
of the Meroitic tumulii also were built. 89 

The Roman General Balbus in 19 B.C. conquered the tribe. In the second 
century A.D. a group among the Levathes (Luwata) which had been a per- 
petual menace to the Roman Empire in Africa, invaded the Garamantian 
territory and subdued the indigenes of Germa forming a confederation called 
Zenata. Zenata included the Garawa or Magherawa, the Luwata called Ifuraces 
(Afer) and Meknes. 

By the 600’s A.D. the populations from Germa or Jerma — the Magherawa 
or Jerawa in Arab histories, were scattered in posts from Libya to Algeria 
including the Gharian, the Wargla oasis and the foot of the Aures. In the 7th 
century A.D., the Arabs came into contact with the Garawa in the region of 
the Aures mountains in Northern Algeria who were a subject tribe of the 

According to one writer, in the Berber world there were several famous 
examples of supreme authority being attributed to a holy woman. 91 One of the 
most famous stories is that of a queen of the Magherawa named Dia or Daya 
Kahena who organized her people to stop the penetration of the Saracen 

Figure 6. Like the Berbers, the Bedja and other Cushitic and Abyssinian 
peoples tend to have long, narrow faces and jaws. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Arabs. She was said to be the mother or a close relative of a General Kaiseila 
of the Luwata in Mauretania (present day Algeria). 92 

He was able to drive the Mohammedan Arabs North into Tripolitania (in 
Libya). Later the Saracens succeeded in converting some of the Maures to the 
laws of Mohammed. The relative of the Dia Kahina was one of the converted, 
and he participated in the conquest of Spain in the year 711 A.D. with his 
people. This was after the Dia had been killed in battle with the Arabs. 93 

These peoples, therefore, were the first of the “Moors” to enter Europe and 
were peoples closely related to the Garamantes and Levathes or Mauri— the 
Nilo-saharans and the Tuarek. They ruled as far as the Pyrenees and parts of 
southern France. About seven years after the capture of Gibraltar or Gebel el 
Tank, they invaded France taking Marseilles and Arles in the 800s and 
capturing Sicily in 837 and seizing Rome in 846. They dominated parts of 
southern Italy for years. 

A famous semi-historical French epic written in 1100’s the “Song of 
Roland” describing this invasion calls them a people “blacker than ink.” They 
remained in France on the western Riviera in the town of Camarque still 
known as La Petite Afrique or Little Africa. 94 Early King Arthur stories also 
describe the Moors as “black as burnt brands.” Sir Morien, the Moorish 

!,oc described <as blacker than an y son of man a Christian had ever 
beheld. The Africans were joined also by some of the Ummayad Arabs in 
North Africa and were overtaken only in the 11th century by another Moorish 
dynasty of Tuarek origin called A1 Murabatin or Almoravids. 96 

Remainders of these Zenata, North of the Sahara, still live in Algeria (they 
are described by one author as a people as “black as Negroes”) They also 

dwell m the Gharian part of Libya, while other Kel Faruwan or Iforas Tuaree 
live in Algeria and Niger. 6 

The peoples of Jerma or Garama known as the Jerawa in Arab records of 
the 6th century had also been migrating, after the invasions of the Vandals and 
Levathes in Fezzan, into the Sahel and Sudan areas where they later were 
known as the Ahel Gara, Wangarawa and Garawa’an and even to this day as 
the Teda are called Gora’an. 

The names of the indigenous Nilo-Saharan peoples of the areas directly 
south of Fezzan today correspond to the names of the ancient tribes of the 
Fezzan called Tedamansii, Gamphasantes and Garawa. We find tribes in the 
area of the ancient Zaghawa lands of Bomu and Kanem by the name of Gam 
of the Kanun, Gara and Teda. Some of the Zaghawa are called Anu Saman by 
the Tuarek which Richmond Palmer connects with the name of the Nasamones. 

The jet black Zaghawa are still known for their incessant raiding, which 
was a marked trait of the ancient Libyan culture, including that of the 
Ethiopian Garamantes. Garamantians grazed their oxen backwards and also 
rode their oxen just as modem Teda and Kanuri and Nilotes further to the 
East. The Nilo-Saharan peoples who established the kindgom of Zaghawa 



called their kings Kara or Kharkhar (before the Tuareg presence) as was the 
custom in Nubia. Gora’an Teda occupied the Bayuda desert not far from 
Meroe as well as the Tibesti area of Chad during the time of Leo Afncanus of 
the 14th century. The desert North of Khartoum was called the desert of 
Goran in his time. The Zaghawa or Teda peoples have had a strong ethnic and 
commercial connection with Nubia for thousands of years. 

Arab writers attribute the founding dynasties of the earliest known king- 
doms of the Sahel and Sudan to Zaghawa. The Tuareg word for Zaghawa 
people is Izghan and their language is Tazghait. The Kingdom of the Zaghawa 
still existed and lay next to that of the Nubata (Nubians) in Ya aqubi s day 
(9th century). Another dynasty called Zaghwe ruled in Abyssinia near the 
same epoch. According to the Arab geographer Yaqut A Mahallebi who 
lived in the 900s A.D. said that Zaghawa were responsible for Kaukau s 
existence as a political unit. The Zaghawa of the Sudan mounted horses 
bareback and their chief wealth was in salt. Yaqu’ubi said that the ruling 
dynasties of Kaukau were the same as that of Jenne. . 

Jenne and Kukia (Kaukau) which were ruled by Zaghawa in the time of the 
Arab writers were said to have existed in the times of the Pharoahs. Kukia was 
an early terminus of the desert trade and was the ancient home of the Zaghawa 
called Songhai. Zaghawa were the first rulers of Kanem and Bornu and the 
Gobirawa of the Hausa kingdoms before the coming of the Tuareg Berber and 

Ar The dialect of the Teda and Kanuri people are connected to that of the 
Zaghawa of Asben and the Songhai groups. Songhai founded the Gao and 
Songhai states. Some Songhai regions still preserve the people and place 
name of the ancient Germa or Djerma in the names Djerma, Zarma and 
Koroma. Many tribal habitats or place names in the Lake Faquibine area are 
variants of the name. Some of these Zaghawa in West Africa called Wangarawa, 
Wakar or Wakore by Arab writers, adopted the dialects of the indigenous 
peoples of Mali called Mande. These Wangara came to be called the Somnke 
or Sarakholle and include today Djula and Diallonke and other peoples now 
speaking dialects called Mande. 97 Soninke and Sarakholle peoples still con- 
sider themselves relatives of the Zarma-Songhai. . 

Later on other Wangarawa or Wakar merchants related to the Songhai 
developed the Ghana kingdom in what is now Mali and Burkina Fasso 
(formerly Upper Volta). They were the early founders of Ghana Empire 
which was called Wakar or Wagadou. In modern times we find certain 
Mande-speaking tribes under the name Koromantse on the Upper Niger and 
the names Gourma-Rarous in Niger and Fada-N’Gourma in Burkina Faso 
ancient Wagadougo. In the area between Debo and the Faquibene Lakes in 
Mali were found many diverse names of places more or less approximating 
the name Djerma. Such names as Dyeram, Dermallah, Ton Dirma in this area 
of the ancient Zarma-Songhai. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

The Nubian affiliation of the ancient Nilo-saharans people explains the 
adeptness in metallurgy, masonry and sorcery of so many Nilo-saharan and 
other African groups. From them no doubt were derived many of the legends 
myths and cosmology reminiscent of the ancient Egypto-Nubian kingdoms 
and the traditions of the ruling clans being from the North and Northeast. The 
metallurgy and masonic skills which led to the pyramids and tumulii in 
conical and pyramidal shapes spread across the Sudan were no doubt due to 
the early presence of Zaghawa. Gao was by tradition the home of sorcerers 
used by the Pharoahs. 

To them were due some of the burial customs that once resembled those of 
ancient Nubia and Egypt and perhaps the megalithic stone circles found in 
Senegal, Guinea and elsewhere in the Sudan. The spread of this fundamentally 
Nubian group may have led to the towns named Kerma, Gaourmas, Germa 
jermas found across the Sudan. They would also have brought their astro- 
nomical knowledge and highly developed skills in masonry, mathematics and 
hydraulics into medieval North Africa and Spain. 

The Luwata as Tuareg 

Tuareg are the direct descendants of the peoples called Maures or Levathes 
Mazikes and Pharusn. Their clan names recall also those of the Luwata of the 
Byzantine period through the time of Arab historians. The names of the 
agwathes or Levathes, known as Maures, like those of the Ifuraces or 
harusn and Mazikes become prominent in literature especially after the 
Homan colonization in North Africa. 

According to D.J. Mattingly the Luwata seem to have been in the process 
ot migrating westward from the area of Egypt in the time of the early Romans. 

mLo t S ° r LagWatin are mentioned in the neighborhood of Leptis 
8 a in Justinian’s time (4th century A.D.) 98 

a d e onh^tr C an us ® 0 VI of the 15th century, the Luwata are mentioned as 
sible for the C ^ r0m t0 east °f the Nile. (Perhaps they are respon- 
Ilam of Chad PreSent d t y Lahawi ° r Lahawiin East of th e Nile.) They are the 
Beni Hilal anrUn'T ° tbe end the 12th century had fought the Arab 

were mostly Jab ' % ^ inbabitants ofTri P oli ’ Tunis and Au J iIa 
(in Libvat r , the Luwata had completely abandoned the Barka 

Bomu and A«Kp % 6 n a ^ a ! Mawri, Sultan Muhammed Bello wrote of the 

Aujila in RarV / UWar ek tribes called Kelowi who came from the region of 

called Imasln J! ^ >resent da ^ E 'hya). The chief division of the Kelowi is still 

were the I CO „ rre i spondin g to Ilagwa or the Laguatan of the Romans who 

tribes t Is saS? I l h u- Arab WriterS ‘ The (Kitama) and Igdalen 

tnoes it is said took Ahir from the Sudanese. 

is stil,°cTn.d l0 : 8ed , t0 thC Uraghen branch of the Tuareg. The Kelowi dialect 
ed Aurighaeye. The Uraghen of southern Libya and Algeria be- 



tween Ghat and Murzuk in Fezzan are known as Hawara and Ihaggaran. 
According to Ya’aqubi a 9th century Arab historian, the Hawara abode was in 
his day from the boundary of the district of Sort to the Tarabolus (Tripoli) and 
Leptis Magna (Libda). Among the stocks related to them or claiming kinship 
with them were Luata. They were a very commercial peoples. Another tribe 
of the Luata that came into the Hoggar land in Algeria he says were called 
Lamta (Ilam). The Lamta according to Yaaqubi of the 9th century were on 
north of the road which ran between Kawar in Niger and Aujila in Libya. 
According to Ya’aqubi they were famous for their shields made from Oryx 
skin called Lamt. The Tuarek still use these shields. 

Cushite Affiliation of the Tuareg 

A.D. Maqrisi, a 9th century Arab writer, calls the animal from which the 
Beja shields were made Aurek (Oryx). Many of the Beja customs of today are 
in fact the same as the Tuareg. The Tuareg and Beja both have a custom of 
presenting themselves to a chief and saluting him by putting his hand on the 
chief’s shoulder and doing so several times to show great repect. 

The oryx was apparently one of the totemic animals of ancient Nubia. It is 
seen eating from a table set on an altar (perhaps representing the table of the 
sun) on Nubian pottery from Karanog. The Oryx bears the totemic designation 
El Amt which is similar to the name of the female camel the other totemic 
ancestress of the Cushites — talemt in Tamashek. Silko, king of the Nobatae 
and the Blemmyae a few centuries after Christ, stated “I am a lion in the South 
country and an oryx in the North.” (The root here amd or mad is connected with 
the tamashek word mad or med which signifies female and earth.) The word 
for the female lineage or connection is Tamaderechi. At least two ancient 
kings of Axum were called el Amd or Ella Amida. 

The Blemmyes (Bedja) lived on both sides of the Nile in ancient times. 
They were first known as Madjay or Medid and dwelt in the Eastern desert, 
but later on Diodorus calls them a Libyan people. Pomponius Mela also said 
they were a people who dwelt west of the Nile. They are described as black 
and woolly-haired peoples by Nonnus in his Dionysica." The Blemmyes of 
Meroe were numerous in the Thebaid 276—282 A.D. operating as far North 
and East as the Gulf of Aqaba in Southern Palestine. Their nobles or leaders 
who were the Ilam Meshi, Megabari or Mazikes were considered to have 
some connection with the rulers of Mauretania (Morocco and Algeria). Certain 
raiders of the Eastern (Nubian) desert were in fact called Maza to a very late 

In 380-400 Mazikes ravaged the oases west of Egypt. They also dwelt in 
Tripolitania. By 545 A.D. the Blemmyes were a considerable power in the 
deserts of both Upper and Lower Egypt. Heliodorus said that the Blemmyes 
anciently had close relations with the Persians during the time of their 


Golden Age of the Moor 

conquering and invasion of Egypt and Nubia several centuries B.C., and they 
followed their method of fighting by shooting arrows from the kneeling 
position as did the Luata Maures or Mezikes in Procopius time. 100 

The Blemmyes were in alliance with the Trogodyte peoples called Megabari 
who may have been the same as the Mezikes mentioned by Evagrius in 
contact with the Blemmyes. 101 The key to the Tuareg Blemmye connection 
and the answer to why the Blemmyes are called a Libyan people and the 
Mezikes called “Ethiopians,” may lie in the Bedja connection and that of the 
Nubian kingdom of the Blemmyes called Makhorria to the Mezikes. The 
Blemmyes were a people in contact with Axum, the capital of Abyssinia. The 
shields of the Bedja were also called the “bucklers of Axum.” During the 
period, approximately the 3rd to the 4th centuries A.D.,the Axumite Empire is 
described in certain documents as the 3rd and 4th world power and in one 
document Axumite Christians are mentioned as having a victory against 
Berber indigenes in the Fezzan area of Libya. 

The Blemmyes themselves were said to be a people who had been Jacobite 
Christians since the time the Copts brought Christianity to Nubia. The early 
Makhorritae or Makhorra of the kingdom of Makkhoria were spread to 
Algeria, known as Makhorenes around this time. They were converted to 
Christianity sometime around the 6th century A.D. Today some Tuareg are 
called Imaghuran and the Hoggar Tuareg were traditionally once a Christian 
people. Peoples named Magiabara occupy an area near Augila where the Ilam 
or Luata once roamed and which is the one of the places the fierce Mezikes 
were known to have ravaged. Late texts speak of people called Mahovera in 

The name of the Meshi like modem Imoshagh or Mashek of the Tuareg 
means nobles and is probably related to the name of Mesh or Mash, an ancient 
Sun god in Nubia usually connected in inscriptions with a God called Med or 
Mad who was probably the Medir of Abyssinia. Mad is called in an ancient 
Nubian inscription “he that is great among deserts come from Puani (Punt).” 
He was chief God at Talmis in Nubia, during the Nobataean and Blemmye 
period a few centuries after Christ. Mit (Mid, Mad) and Mash are often 
mentioned as deities in ancient Karanog inscriptions. Med and Mash seem to 
have been deities associated with fire altars or the hearth as well as the Sun. 
These deities were derived from the pantheon of the 25th dynasty Libyans 
according to one scholar. 

Fire worship is an ancient Bedja and Tuareg custom. The Tuareg still wear 
the veil, that was once used to keep them from breathing on the sacred fire. 

e Titans or Libyan God-ancestors were fire worshippers as Ad of the Koran 
and Arabic tradition was a “son of the fire mist.” Atlas who was Daris or Idris 
of the Arabs, symbolized in Greek myth by a man holding the four comers of 
the universe in his hand, was metaphoric of the God called Midilayi or Aman- 
tar by the Tuareg and Teda who is Lord of the hearth composed of pillars 




Figure 7. Women still ride oxen in Chad like the ancient Garamantes of 

136 Golden Age of the Moor 

capped by a rectangular stone which was in some way also representative of 
the Table of the Sun. 

In the writings of Ibn Khaldun, the veiled Lamtuna Berbers, who were and 
are Tuareg are called Magians worshipping fire. There was a saying among 
the Tuareg until recently that “fire is an attribute” of a Lord or Noble which is 
‘Mash.’ The word for fire Temsi means belonging to Mash. A chiefdom in 
Bomu was called “in the fire of’ because of the Tuareg descended dynasty 
there. The manuscripts of that area speak of a sacred fire called Matabar (Mid 
or Mad). Traces of the Meroeitic Table of the Sun and the fire cult which 
appears to have once extended past Abyssinia into southern Arabia, Persia 
and India, are found among the peoples of ancient Bomu. In Kanem (in the 
Bomu Sudan) a chief used to be installed by lighting a sacred fire under a flat 
stone superimposed on three hearth stones invoking the God Midilayi Aman- 
tar. Such ancient stone seats were known to have existed among the ancient 
Arabian Saracens as far North as Petra (Jordan). 102 

I The Bedja were in the time of Maqrisi still adoring the “Pure Fire” which 

the Arabs called Sheitan (Satan). Sheitan is Arabic and related to the word 
“Sati” in Amharic Ethiopian and meaning fire. Ibn Selim al Aswani said that 
| most of the people of Aiwa in the kingdom of Makhouria, the old center of 

Blemmye power, sacrifice to the sun, moon and stars and adore the fire and 
sun as Gods. Every Beja clan “from Aiwa to the sea had its priest, who pitches 
a tent made of feathers in the shape of a dome wherein he practices his 
adorations.” Yaqu’ubi states that the Beja area of Baglin (Bakhoras or Faras) 
was “an area of many large towns; the inhabitants of which resemble Magians 
believing in the dual principles of good and evil.” 103 In the 12th century, the 
Arab author Idrisi mentions the AJ Beliun descendants of the Blemmyes as a 
people wandering in the country of the Beja and Abyssinians, “nomads 
without settled abode like the Lamtuna of the desert of the Maghrib-el-Aksa.” 
They were composed of sister peoples called Balau and Hafero (Afar). 

In fact, the people named Afar who were considered Bedja in the days of 
the Romans, still inhabit the countries of the horn of Africa (Erythraea, 
Ethiopia, Djibouti, etc. appears to have some relationship to that of the ancient 
Iforas, Afer or Pharusii of North Africa. The ahir Tuaregh ancestress Besh, 
otherwise called T’izki the lame, may be affiliated with the Cushitic Oromo or 
Galla Goddess named Wesh and the ancient Nilotic God Besh, who was also 
a lame God and who also appears in very ancient rock engravings in Fezzan. 

The Beli of Chad and Sudan or Belin of Ethiopia/Eritrea were a people who 
were called the Bello of Adal (Adulis) in Abyssinian song. They are probably 
both Arab and Bedja. The area between Adulis and Suwakin called Kalau 
Balau was also known as Matat. Today the Beli (also known as Bideyat) in 
Annadi in Chad, famous for their breed of camels are called Mitmiti by the 
Kanuri — a name also reserved by them for Tuareg. ( This latter name probably 


Golden Age of the Moor 

has affiliation with the name for the early name Madjayu or Matat for Bejda 
and for the Blemmyes.) 

Both the Beli of Ennedi or Annadi in Chad, originally from the Bediyat 
(Bedja) and the Tuareg have the short arm or wrist swords similar to the Bedja 
and mentioned by Corripus as being peculiar to the Levathes or Laguatan 
(Ham) camelmen of Northern Africa. They call their language Barituki. In 
Annadi, which is the ancient home of Zaghawa (or Teda) peoples, are traces 
of mining and working of iron pottery of Nilotic origin. There is also evidence 
from rock paintings of warriors associated with broad bladed lance “first 
associated with horses, then later men with camels with pack saddles that 
enclosed their humps in the Meroitic manner.” The Belin of Ethiopia have a 
tradition that they extend from the House of Tarqe or the Pharoah Taharqe. 
The marks worn on this Pharoah’s face in some of his sculptures are still worn 
by these Eritreans. 

Palmer related the name of the Tuareg or Targa to that of the name of the 
people in Meroitic inscriptions called T’rogu. But this was just a speculation. 
The latter is probably equivalent to one of the names for rulers or the king 
ancestor or divine ruler Kar, Ark, Ari or Areg in the “hamitic” and Afro- 
Semitic dialects. The Tuareg demi-gods are called Argulen, which seemed to 
Palmer to account for the much recounted tradition of the Hercules who 
conquered Libya with the Moors and Afarik. The honorific title for Kanuri 
founders of the (Tuareg) ruling clan called Maghumi was Kurguli. In the 
tradition of the people called Jukon who traditionally come from Northern 
Sudan and Nubia, Harkilla was the King of Meroe. Ancient Nubian kings 
were often named Arkammon or during the Byzantine epoch, Karkar. 

The Tuareg, Matat or Madjayu ancestors very probably introduced the veil, 
and the fire worship or magianism that seems to have been prevalent in the 
Maghreb until late times into the early Sahara through their contacts with 
Nubia and/or perhaps during the Byzantine period. The Luata who were the 
Ilam of the time of the Beni Hilal invasion were said to have worn the veil. An 
early historical statement that the Blemmyes had no mouths is perhaps 
explained by the fact that they wore veils. All of this may point to a connec- 
tion between the peoples called Ilam or Maza (Mazikes) in the Libyan Oases 
and the Bedja called Megabari and Ilam Meshi of the Blemmyes. These 
peoples were spread to the Red Sea coast in the East and to Algeria in the 

The Origins of the Fatimid, Almoravid and Almohad Dynasties 

The Berbers by tradition are normally divided into two semi-mythical 
historical lineages, one called Zenata and the other Sanhaja. The Zenata 
ancestor Madghis el Botr was identified by Palmer with the names of the areas 
known as Maris and Pathros which signified the Nubian area south of Egypt 



in ancient times. — » " 

the riff of Abyssinia” and “veiled pelves ^ they forme d sev - 

distinguishes them from other peop the Masufa, the Uzla, Targa, 

e,al tribes such as £££ tQ a^n, they lived on the flesh and m, 

offheir camels^nd never bowed to name lma ld,an who were 

Eastern branches of the Tuareg f ioth century Kitama 

called by the Arabs Kitama or ^^^Sed the Little Kabyle 
Berbers a people of Sanhaja stoc time of the Romans founded 

Mountains of Eastern Algeria, perhaps, ^ & shate leader . They seized 
the Fatimid sultanate centered gyp o{ Xunis ia) in 909 A_D. and 

Kairouan in Ifriqiyah (w 1C the 970s d i sso lving the earlier Saracen 

established their capital at Ca ' nize d for having reoriented the trade 

Abbasid dynasty. The Fatimute ^ ^ ^ East Asia were shipped 

I'Stian mgioTand passed on to Europe. on ^ Ilam 

MSS* of .heir caliphs Egypt. The -me 

Tuareg who were the Luwata enemi . the Afro-Asiatic 

flanh according .0 Palmer, is the plmaUfl E or Go d, cognate to 

dialects (Erythraean) signifies the faflt ^P ^ camel-watnors who 
Imalhan and Imilli, Tuareg wo as has been said were described 

figure on the pages of SWO rd with a short sword attached 

as men “black” in color, w o rticu i ar . The Zenata were according 

to the arm like the modern Tuareg m pam 

one specialist a Luwata people. ^ Control over Egypt passed 

toSvJsoldkre of the FS^mainl^men This 

until the era of the rise of the Ottoman 

Turkish Empire. an end t0 the Visigoth (Germanic) 

In 711 a Berber army led by jar q p ^ of the to wn of Tahart in 

empire in one battle. In the 84 n ^st a te of Gao in the same area belonged 

Algeria which traded with e A few centuries earlier in the 

Si -me of £- «- « 

Algeria'm^S^g^bEnr^n^E ^ 3 ^ 6 ^^^ 313 WCTe aPPht—^y ^ pt * 56111 



Golden Age of the Moor 

North Africa were founded by them. In the 9th century, Ya’aqubi says that the 
Sanagira a people living near Kairuwan in Tunis were called so because their 
ancestor had been a native of Singar (Sennar) an area on the Blue Nile. Palmer 
felt that thiswas a variant of the name for the Maghreb Berbers called Sanhaja 
or Zenaga The Kitama themselves were Sanhaja and according to Ibn Khaldun 
their brethren were Masmuda and Ghomara. Sanhaja, who made up one-third 
of the Berbers, after the 10th century occupied mainly the Maghreb al Aksa 
region extending from Morocco and Algeria and Ifriqiyah Tunis to Niger 

i and Sene § al the South. Peoples occupying oases in Northern Libya 
still speak Sanhajan dialects. y 

These names however reflect the composite nature of the Tuareg confed- 
eration of the Middle Ages since the Godala or Gaituli, Afar or Iforas who 
comprised the Zenata, Zaghawa or Teda were all the names of distinct and 
separate tribes inhabiting North Africa, and the Sahara since the Roman era 
and perhaps before. By the time of Ibn Khaldun, other Sanhaja called Lamta 
lived m the Sahara and in the Sus al Aksa. 

The Zaghawa were actually the servile tribes of the Tuareg in charge of 
caring tor the herds or having other agricultural tasks. The Nilo-Saharan 

m Var i,° US regi ° nS as Haratin or Ikarada n, Imraden, Inaden 
"bat, t he y are usually the smith or metal workers who make the knives 

,he nobIe Tuareg or a- -Ch 

The area of which the veil was worn in the 12th century included places as 

rnlmha ? th t Red SCa COaSt ‘ 11 WaS WOm by the Nubians and b y Abyssinian 
merchants who congregated at Philae. ] °3 Today some of the men from the 

^ g "° f , Zeila in SomaIia stiI1 v eil their faces. From the area between Tunisia 
ZenaM/Se 8 ?” 1 -° f the Berbers 8 enerall y known as Sanhaja or 

Maghreb re?" 8 ?,? ^ qU Ub ° mdiated ° Ver the Western Sahara a " d 
Hausa ml? Fulbe /! ans are also called Sangirawa, or Shanakora in 
belonged aV VT* °u the m ° dem day peoples of the Sanhaja to which 
Zenaga or Se b^ ^ V° Se tbe ^ US ’ tbe ^ asmuda > the Masufa and the 
to very darl^Ttf 3 r*u of Morocco > Lamtuna, Kunta, Nafusawa are dark 
Morocco are G1 J"? 1 ? ra ’ KabyIes and some of the other Berbers in 
area. However fair ® r ’ of mixed anc estry, especially those in the Rif 

ever, Ghomara and some of these other Berbers still claim to have 

come from the south.) 

and Beni Ifomn'nf 6 N ° r . th the Is lamicized Zenata dynasties of Maghrawa 

Sale, Tadla F P ( < J braces ^ and Meknassi ruled the North African cities of 

Aghmat Tn’tho ’ SlJ1 ™ asa founde d by Meknassi Zenata in 757 A.D. and 

center called And^r, 0 ! & S ° utbern Sahara they had a bustling commercial 

they shared wtih ,?^? ° rAuderas a ma J or town of ancient Ghana, which 

point of caravan* * Moor,sb Arabs ' The y aIso mled Tadmakka a meeting 
" 01 carava ns en route to Gao from Tripoli in Libya and Tuat The Zenata 



were Ibadite traders and were directly involved in commercial transactions 
while Sanhaja actually held control of the trade by levying taxes and played 
the role of caravan guides. The Zenata were said to > have i 
narasitical and a new dawn was on the horizon by the end of the 11th century- 
P During the same century Berber and Moorish kingdoms existed in the 
Iberian peninsula, although at Seville there were Syrians them^lves 
Abbadids The Aftassids were Berbers. At Malaga were the Hamdids, (of the 
Sanhaja) at Granada the Zirids, (also of the Sanhaja) and at Saragosa were 

M °T 0 he Sa ( nhaja bl a a iso included the men called Lamta, Lamtuna and Massufa. 
The Lamtuna today called Aulammiden are the Sanhaja generally recognized 
by scholars on North Africa to have composed the original Almoravid or E 
Murabatin Moorish peoples and dynasty. By 1068 the ^tuna Iwed to the 
South of present day Rio d’Oro in the country now called Spanish Sahara. 
According to Ibn Khaldun of the 14th century the Lamtuna lived in the desert 
north andnorth-east of Timbuctu and were “brothers of the Sanhaja. 

In the preceding century the Sanhaja called Massufa lived in the desert 
between Audaghast and Sijilmasa. They controlled the traderoutes rnnni g 
through that area. They developed the salt mine of Taghaza. The Sanhaj 
ruledAudaghast as well which was mostly populated by Zenata and some 

^According to Ibn Battuta, the Massufa tribe were the inhabitants of Tin 
Bukt or Timbuktu and Walata (Aiwalatin) as well. He remarked on what he 
thought was the great liberty and position accorded women and the custom o 
descent through women (which is typical of Tuareg clans). He also spoke of 
their surpassing beauty. Like other clans of the Sanhaja, the Tuareg oug 
Islamisized, kept the traditional respect for women once customary o 
“Ethiopian” peoples in general, which struck the Romans and later Arabs as 
strange and wicked. (There is mention of Moorish women doctors m ear y 
writings about the Moors in Spain.) The Imoshagh don’t eat totemic animals 

representing their female ancestors. c . T ^ 

Most of the Arabs that were Moorish and came to °“ upySab f a,L . J: 
Fezzan were descended from the Banu Sulaym, the hadhara or black 
kinsmen of the Beni Hilal. Both had moved from the Central Arabian plateau 
into the Eastern desert about 1050 A.D. They went west M .force waging 
major battles with the Berbers and leading a major attack on Knqiyah in 
Tunisia ruled then by a Hammadi Sanhaja dynasty. 0ne 
famous tribe of the Qays Ailan who were ancestral to several of the later tnb 

who invaded African countries was said to have said in the hadhara f 

Qays is the surfeit of all my pride.” Their descendants included tribes like 
Aulad Suleiman, Banu Maqil and Banu Hassan. AccordmgtotheEgyptan 
writer, Nawal el Sadawi, the prophet said, “I am the son of the El Awatek 
Atika, daughter of Hilal, Atika, daughter of Mora and Atika, Daughter of E 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Awkass from the tribe of Sulaym. ” Both Hilal and Sulaym who came from the 
central Arabian plateau considered themselves descendants of the Qays Ailan 
referred to above. [Note: “There are black tribes among the Arabs, such as the 
Banu Sulaym ibn Mansur, and those not of the Banu Sulaym who stay in A1 
harra. They, however, own “slaves” from among the Spanish who serve as 
guards and water-carriers while their concubines come from Rome” (Kitab 
fakhr as-Sudan ’Ala al-Bidan by al-Jahiz, 9th century).] V 

The descendants of Sulaym in south Egypt were and are known as Saidis. 
Many others like the Beni Maqil went westward to Mauretania and to Senegal 
where they are called Trarza. They subjugated and converted many of the 
Berbers, who became Islamic clerics. The latter who became Arabized are 
found throughout Saharan and Sahel areas and were called Zuwaya Such 
tribes as the Mogharba, Chaamba of Chad and Algeria, Kunta of Niger and 
Mauretania and others played a major part in converting areas of the Sudan to 
Islam through proselytization, but the Zuwaya especially the originally Libyan 
Mogharba of Sudan also played a very large part in the slave trade 
The Almoravid movement began among the nomadic Lamtuna Tuareg 
from the Adrar in Mauretania and later included the Goddala (the Gaetuli) 
They controlled the caravan routes from southern Morocco to the western 

rrZJ t mi J d f f * he llth Centruy A - D ” they ca Ptured Auderas or 
Audaghast the chief desert port of the Ghana empire, then the town of 

Bv ren^oTit °u ne °, fth6ir leadeis Yus uf founded Marrakesh. 

X r l " . fr , i CentU / y ’ they had ca P tured a11 of Morocco and western 
as wearinn vS 8 ! S P3m (S ° me of the Moorish men of Spain are described 

nomadi^Fidani in tT ™ in their attempts t0 gain hold over the 
onlv hafr a rp / Takrur who were Goddala. The A1 Moravid empire lasted 

stoi-the m? Ur V mi U WaS overtaken by other P^ples also of Sanhaja 

nasty The AlmoSfd^ 0 eStab J ,s . 1 ? ed the Almuwah’hidun or Almohad dy- 

the bestfletlTn m ° yed SlJ . lImassa in the 1100s. At its height they had 

finest of Muslim *t Medlterranean - This period also witnessed the 

Muslim architecture m Spain and Morocco. 

centers like Granarf 3 ^ polished uppe ^ aaa continued in local 

bunt in GraMd^what"^ *** 5® ^ l0St C ° ntro1 ° f the area ‘ 1116 Moors 

architecture and 18 0ne of the § reatest known works of 

human figures that ann! (l3t6r 3 Christian artist paint ed the 

Islam and 8 Arabtiadibnn °m ^ f lhngS which the strict Prohibitions of 

u ana Arab tradition would not have permitted). 

There are sfmilTrm deP,Ctl0nS ° f this period aS slender ’ blac k, bearded men. 
paintings dating fromthp^ 31 ' 0 ^ if I ^ 00rs and wbite Portuguese in Japanese 
famous painting shows^elT ? f®? 1 * Portuguese visits to the Orient. One 
harp, others nlav rh f®? slender Moors at leisure -one is handling a 

Wani„„ ma / sa L oS:™£„ y sXaS Pare ' ^ ^ ***’' 

e oorish civilization was of fundamental value in creating a rebirth of 



culture and arts in Europe and throughout the world. Many native dances and 
Sd— ts that are now European have their roots m .the ^oorish 
cultures of Spain and Portugal. To the smiths of the Moors (probably the 
va^al smith castes of the Tuareg and Arabs) were due the development of 
major masonic orders in western Europe. They brought with 
and esoteric traditions and masonic-related sciences (like Algebra) that were 

many of the great early European philosophers 
and astronomers including Spinoza, Albu Masur and Ibn Rushd. Moors were 
the greatest influence in the development of the chivalrous era and t y 
introduced such things as were associated with knighthood, horse breeding 


modem day chess and checkers. , One can see in Bomu today ™en wear g 
light armor, and jousting on horses covered in palls reminiscent °* th ° ae 
the horses of European knights used to wear. The Tuareg tradition of accord g 
women^reat 'respect waf influential in developing a kind of chivalrous 
attitude of European men toward women which became a virtual code of 
geX mong P knights and the “gentle-bom.” (Of course, women never 
achieved real social liberation or the honor that was customary for Berber and 

° th MawTfamil 0 y n in southern Europe bears the name of the ancient Moonsh 
tri^s of North Africa. Such names as Ortega, Medina Alvarez, SiWa and 
Tzigane and especially names that start or end with ez and es among Spanish 
descendants, and names like Mussulini, Caramante in Italy are actually Berb 

and Arab namesakes. 


/ The word Moor was used for people basically Berber in origin but then 
came to include during the Islamic period, the early 

populations belonged to a physical type or types of men commonly ^rred to 
by early scholars as “hamitic,” “brown” or “brown Mediterranean ^ Thro ug h- 
out the Middle Ages and previous to the Atlantic slave trade other men of 
“black” or nearly black pigmentation, particularly Muslim, came to be com- 
rcS to as Moors. Although there had been an .yctent mflux of 
populations biologically affiliated with Europeans ,n the , lamudK 
and 20 degrees in Africa and Arabia, the Northern re, jtons of te a reas w 
still predominantly populated by groups genetically and ethnically aff 
with bla^” 1 Africans until the Middle Ages. The increase m migration 
through the slave trade as well as Turkish rale in the Arab world did much to 
modify the genetic composition of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.^ 
The Berber is not a homogeneous type of man today physica , y ° 
ally. The word Berber is probably ultimately derived from an mdigeneous 



Golden Age of the Moor 


African word related to the word for water or water sources. This may account 
for why the term was used particularly for highly nomadic and pastoral 
peoples. The present day use of the term differs in that it mainly is employed 
for those who speak a “Berber” dialect. These dialects are connected to the 
Tamashek or Tuareg dialects which belong to the Erithraean or Afro-Asiatic 
group of languages. The ancient Berbers were ethnically related to pastoralists 
and nomads of Nubia and extending to the Red Sea. They were the first to be 
called “Maurusioi” or “Moors.” 

The “wandering” Libyans of Herodotus, and Greek legend and histories, 
were direct ancestors of the Berbers spoken of by the Romans. They were 
traditionally believed to have colonized, prior to the Christian era, parts of the 
Iberian peninsula and the Mediterranean as well as portions of Asia Minor 
and the Levant. These men were the first to be called Lebou, Tamehou and 
Tehenou and are portrayed in ancient Egyptian iconography and literature. 
The connection between the Tamehou and the C-group population of ancient 
Nubia and Sudan is fairly well established by linguists and archaeologists. 

The “red” Fulani of Niger are perhaps the best example of the ancient 
Libyan or Gaitulian as he looked to the Greek, and of the Berber as he looked 
to the Roman. They preserve, more than other groups of the Sahara, cultural 
features, customs and physical traits described by the Greeks and portrayed in 
Saharan and ancient Egyptian rock art. These Fulani to a large extent also 
closely represent the C-group populations of the ancient Saharan and Nubian 
region, and the so-called “Abyssinian” or “hamitic” type that spread into the 
Horn of Africa previous to 3000 B.C. 

The Berbers of the chariots and camel periods seem to represent additional 
waves of people from the Nilotic area, as indicated by rock drawings and 
pottery and tomb types of the Sahara (Hoggar, Tassili and elsewhere) and 
Nubia. Bedja or Cushites and other occupants of Nubia shared customs 
similar to ancient “Libyans” and were also called Berbers by the Romans until 
the end of the Byzantine period. 

The Nilo-Saharan speakers are a people who had migrated from Nubia 
after the end of the Kerma period. They may have emerged from the conver- 
gence of Cushitic and other African groups in the area. The Garamantes and 
related Fezzanese Libyans possibly represent one of the ancient populations 
that were cultural heirs of Nubia and directly ancestral to modem Nilo- 
Saharans, particularly Songhai and early Wangara populations. 

The Tuareg are descended from ancient inhabitants of modem day Libya, 
unisia and Algeria. They are those called Ifuras or Afer and Mezikes or 
agwatan Maures by the Byzantine writers. Modem Tuarek or Tamashek 
speakers share many customs in common with the Bedja. Magism which 
marked both early Tuareg and Bedja is the original reason for male veil- 
wearing which was also once relatively widespread among the indigenes of 
Northeast Africa. 

The Moorish dynasties of the Islamic period were comprised of the ances- 

Figur , Hammadi f "SjSStS 

Almoravide dynasty in Spain). T 1Q55 unt j| H46. A Sanhsya 

dynasty that ruled in N ° rt ^ succeeding the rule of the 

Hvnastv called Zirid ruled in Tunisia trom ? 


Golden Age of the Moor 

tors of modern Teda, Tuarek and Fulani as well as the early Arabians of the 
Hejaz region of Arabia whose remnants still dwell North of Mecca and in the 
Yemen. The bedouin Arabs of the Northern and Central Arabian deserts 
during the period of Roman colonization of the Levant and Arabia were 
considered by the Romans themselves to be descendants of men who lived in 
a remote period in the Eastern desert of what is now called Sudan near the 
ancient Bedja populations (Blemmyes). 

The late Moorish dynasties were composed of the ancestors of the men 
called Tuarek or Sanhaja today, as well as the Fulani. They along with the 
Moorish Arabs were the main controllers of the trade routes running between 

the Mediterranean and the Sudan during the Middle Ages of Europe as well as 
in ancient times. 

Moorish civilization was of fundamental value in creating a rebirth of 
cuhure m Europe and throughout the world. The ancestors of the Moors were 
the blacks that had played a part in the ancient civilizations of Arabia, Nubia 
the Sahara and the horn of Africa. In those places, they had traded their wares’ 
ought their battles, participated m desert skirmishes and endured the intense 
heat, scoipions, snakes and sandstorms of the desert, but like their more 
anaent kinsmen of the great and complex agriculturally-based civilizations 

and^ masonry IZ'd** navi S ation > metallurgy, hydraulics, astronomy 

and masoniY and developed their own particular philsosophy of the natural 
world which pervades our modem major Western religions P Y 
. ! !? f her ' ta ge and an era in history that has been neglected for centuries 

Grit Wh ‘ Ch ‘ h0Se Wh ° Were there t0 wi “ ess i'-«K 

objectivf research 0,he ' s “, w<> “ ld har< % recognize. Hopefully, as more 

J esearch is done on the traditions and history of the Sahel and 
Saharrn, areas, of N„„h Africa in general, more illuming tidence it 

Notes for Introduction 

2 kZ° M ’ J-’ Le S ac y of Islam, 1931, p. 101. 

citing Histoid H* n N u a ^ re £ n ° WsN ° ColorL ™, Helga M. Rogers, 1952 n 70 fn 
^ i*i903.P 3^ - 321 and 452-498. Desland're^ p!j 

4 - Ibid.' p 0 7^fn. P Roger S Sir Sc0tt ’ S> “ Notes on Thomas Rhymer.” 

6.' H “Vn n Hist0ry ’ 1919 ’ P- 124 - 

7 ci' . ’ Ro S ers > P- 50. 

8 p|™. Cor ippus, Johannnid Book 1, 245. 

9 R r n ° C °P lus > D e Bello Vandalico, Book IV 

in m°? ers> °P- cit., P . 56. 

10. Ibid. p. 109. 

11 ■ Ibid. p. 73 fn. 



13. John G.Tackson, Man, God & Civilization, Citadel Press, 1972, p. 276. 

14. Rogers, op cit., p. 110. 

Notes for Paper 

1. Korbishchanov, Yuri., Axum, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1979, p. 

46 2 Kitab F akhr As-Sudan Ala Al Bidan, by Abu Uthman Amr Ibn Bahr A1 Jahiz, 

translation Vincent J. Cornell. France Preston, pp. 48-49. ... p 

3. Palmer, Sir Richmond, The Bornu Sahara and Sudan, Negro Universities Press, 

A division of Greenwood Press Inc., New York, 1970, p. 216. . 

A 4 See the writings of Ammianus Marcellinus Book IV. The Compact Edition of 
the Oxford English Dictionary says that the Saracens were the Arab Bedouin extend- 
ing from Mecca to the Euphrates. _ „ 1 Q z:a 

5 . Greenberg, J. H„ The Languages of Africa, The Hague, 1963. 

7. “Abbay, - Documents Pour Servir a l’Historie de la Civilization Ethiopien” 

9-10 1978-1979. See G. Hudsons article. 

8 Curtin, P. Fierman, S. Thompson, L. African History, Little Brown and 
Company ^1978 21^ ^ ^ philby Rykma n S -Lippens Ex- 

pedition in Arabia 1968. Vol I, pp. 8, 9, 153, 181-183. 

10. Ibid. 

U. Thomas, Bertram, “Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute” Jan.- 
June^l929^p. 10^ ^ these pe0 pi es pushed into Northeast Africa and the Sahara 

fr °T 4 Ar Smith^a n ElHm°rhe Ancient Egyptians and the Origin of Civilization, Harper 
Brothers^l^i, p Per$ona i Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al Madinah and 

Mecca, edited by Isabel Burton, Vol. II. , - n 

16 Hiemaux J Peoples of Africa, London 1974., pp. 126, 149 and 59-68. 

11. Op. cit., Palmer p. 272 fn. citing the “Appendix to the List of Provinces of 

Di °18 et Camps, G. Berbers -Aux Marges de I’Historie Toulouse Hesperides 1980, p. 

19. See Claudian’s De Bello Gildonico Book 1 189. 

21 They P are P seven P in number and the modem form of theancientKabinor 
Ghebers of Afro-Semitic tradition and the Corybantes or heroes of Greek tradition. 

22. Huntingford, G. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea London^ 

23. Bates, Oric. The Eastern Libyans, Frank Cass Publishers, 1970, pp. 13 13, 

2M ™Hamito-Semitica, J. and T. Bynon (editors) See Vycichyl in Final discussion 
of “The Archaeological Context of the Hamitic Languages in Northern Africa, IV o, 
p 513. See Bates op. cit. pp. 40 and 43. 

25. Clark, J.D. Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. I, 1982, p. 707. 

26. Herodotus Book IV 186. .... TT 

27. De Sanges, J. “The Proto-Berbers,’ , U.N.ES.C.O. History of Africa, Vol. II, 


Golden Age of the Moor 

editor Gamal Makhtar, Berkeley University of California Press, 1981. 

28. Bates, Oric, The Eastern Libyans op cit. (1st edition) MacMillan and Co. 
1914, p. 66. 

29. Ibid. p. 64. Also, Brogan, Olwen, “Inscriptions in the Libyan Alphabet from 
Tripolitania and Some Notes on the Tribes of the Region,” Bynon, J. and T. Hamito- 
Semitica, 1975, pp. 282-285. 

30. Palmer op. cit. citing S. Gsell, La Tripolitaine, and Bates, op. cit., p 66 

31. Strabo, translation H.L. Jones, The Loeb Classical Library, Harvard Univer- 
sity Press, 1967, Vol. 8 p. 167. 

32. Palmer, op. cit., p. 169. 

33. Diodorus of Sicily, translation C.H. Oldfather, Cambridge and London: W. 
Heinemann and Harvard Univ. Press, 1961. II pp. 249-251. 

34. Rothery, G.C., The Amazons in Antiquity and Modern Times , (London F 

Grirriths, 1910) pp. 118-119. ’ 

35. Temple, Robert, The Sirius Mystery, St. Martins Press, New York, 1976, p. 

14 ^ Charles-Picard, G., Les Religions de T Afrique Antique (Paris: Plon), 1954, p. 

37. Arabia in those days included the area east of the Nile in North Africa 
extending to the Red Sea. 

38. See Procopius’ Z)e Bello Vandalico, H.B. Dewing, translator, Harvard Univ 

Press p. 323 iv, xm and see summary Reft of the Moors. 

39. Bates, op. cit., first ed., p. 76. 

40. Ibid. p. 138. 

41. Cambridge History of Africa Vol. 1, p. 270. 

42. Bates, op. cit., p. 80. 

Perioric^o'^^X 01 a 2 t^H^ R C C ' “ North Africa in Hellenistic and Roman 

177 h C °’* b '“S‘ Hl «°V •***»- Cam- 

44. Ibid. p. 147. 

700 4 ” n ^ S d Vm?'c ^ h L ChriStia i 1 Period in Medi terranean Africa, A.D. 200- 

ley Unlvarsil y V °‘ ^ B “ l - 

47 n a u b rr ri rr e J? iS l 0ry °f A f rica > OP- cit., pp. 101-102, Vol. II. 

Sanges “The Pmtn r Hi stor y of Africa Vol. II, Gamal Mokhtar editor. See J. De 

4 S 8 Cambridffe^ct berS ’ Be - ke J ey University of California Press, 1981. 

To Cambridge History, op. cit. Vol. II p. 130. 

9. Ibid. p 184, Cambridge op. cit. Vol. II p. 130. 

51 rSi J - D ; A # lstor y of West Africa, pp. 14-16. 

52 Rmio k? T n P° litaine P- 17, cited in Palmer p. 280. 

53 Coo? ’°! w t en ’ Inscriptions...” op. cit. pp. 282-285. 

54. Hayes °f Europe, 1979, p. 257. 

Valley” in Problems in ° f the Sahara as jt Relates to the Nile 

A. 1975. ^historic North Africa and the Levant, Wendorf, F. and Marks, 

5 . 5 - ® ate s, op. cit. p. 251. 

57. Pafme^niio 'J he ^oples of Africa, London, 1974. 

Mauretanian Kings^n ai i d the “ Aj inales Regnum Mauretanae” (Annals of 

Arabic Conquest ff the Mt 1 i, L t V , tZ1 u n ’ Nehemia ' “ The Sahara and Sudan from the 

Vol. II p. 6 3 7 the Na ghreb to the rise of the Almoravids” in Cambridge History, 
58 - J osephus Antiquities, Vol. IV, H.S.T.J. Thackery translator, Loeb Classical 



Library, 1967 pp. 65-66 and see Bates, The Eastern Libyans, first edition, op cit. pp. 

^SQ^Ciark j. Desmond, “The Spread of Food Production in Sub-Saharan Africa,” 
no 31-32 in Fage, J.D. and Oliver, R.A. Papers in Africa Prehistory, Cambridge 
University Press, 19 Phillipson, D. The Later Prehistory of Eastern and Southern 
Africa, London 1977, p. 66. . 

60. Ibid. Clark, “The Spread of Food Production. 

61. Op. cit. Cambridge History Vol. I pp. 289-290, Bates op cited p. 51. 

62. Arkell, A. A History of Sudan to A.D. 1821, University of London, pp. 49 52. 

Bates, op cit. p. 211, 251, 2nd edition. . _ . , 

63. Kemp, B. “Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and Second Intermediate Period 

in Egypt in Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. I op. cit. 658-761. 

64. Ibid. Bates p. 251, 2nd edition. . ... 

65. McGaffey, Wyatt. “Concepts of Race in Northeast Africa in Papers in Afri- 
can Prehistory, op. cit. pp. 112-113. .. 

66. Op. cit., “Abbay,” pp. 27 and 28, 

67. Bates, first edition, pp. 245-252. op. cit. 

68. Palmer, p. 76, citing from People of the Veil, pp. 260-261. 

69. Camps, G. Aux Origines de la Berberie, Arts et Metier, 1961, p. 66. 

70. Op. cit., Camps in Cambridge History of Africa, Noll pp. 619-622_ 

71. Griffith, F. Meroeitic Inscriptions, Volume I, plate XXI, cited by Palmer p. 
174 fn. in Bornu Sahara op. cit. 

72. Camps op. cit. Berberes -Aux Marges de L ’Histone, La Joux Rock Paintings 

ofTassili,pp. 190-191. Palmer, p. 95, 136-7. ioai „„ 7n_7«! 

73. Dunbar, J.H. The Rock Pictures of Lower Nubia, Cairo, 1941, pp. 70-75. 

74. Op. cit., Camps, G., Berbers Aux Marges, op. cit. pp. 63-€8. 

75. Hags Tomas, Nubian Culture Past and Present, Papers Presented at the 6 
International Conference for Nubian Studies in Uppsala, 11-16, August , pp. 

76. Huntingford, op. cit. p. 83. 

77. Ibid, pp. 144-147. „ ^ . U1 — A 

78 Calhoun, J.B. “Plight of the Ik and Kaiadilt is Seen as a Chilling Possible End 

of Man,” in Hunter, D. and Whitten, P .Anthropology Contemporary Perspectives 4th 
edition 1985. 

79. Op. cit., Arkell, A. p. 51. 

80. Op. cot., “Abbay” p. 27 and 28. 

81 DeSanges, J. op. cit. p. 428. See Diodorus Siculus writings Book XX. 

82. Graves, R. The Greek Myths, 3.3, Penguin books 1969-1971. 

83. Bates, op. cit. p. 257 2nd edition. „ T inori 

84. Wright, J. Libya, Chad and the Central Sahara, Barnes and Noble 1989, pp. 


85. Sharman, J.C., “Meroeitic: Its Ancestors and Descendants, Some Relation- 
ships” Azania 9, 1974, pp. 207-218. 

86. Procopius De Bello Vandalico. 

87. DeSanges, op. cit. p. 430. . 

88. Daniels, Charles. The Garamantes of Southern Libya, Stoughton Oleander 

Press, 1970, pp. 32-35. 

89. Temple, R. The Sirius Mystery, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1976, p. 157. 

91. Op. cit. Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. II, p. 509, Palmer p. 17. 

92. Julien, Charles Andre. History of North Africa, Translation by Jon Petrie, 
Praeger Publishers, 1970 pp. 12-17. 

93. Ibid. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

94. Rogers, op. cit. p. 69 

95. Ibid. p. 56. 

ta ,h ' u,e 

Press! N " nUS ' D,m,S “ K ° ’ “'’■»« Rouse Vol. II. Harvard Unive , sily 

100. Palmer, op. cit. p. 114, 

101. Palmer, op. cit. p. 179 

102. Ibid, pp 138, 199, 203, 122,123. 

103. Ibid. p. 145. 


Wayne B. Chandler 

The great empires of ancient Africa, both Kushite and Egyptian, collapsed 
within a few centuries of each other. After thousands of years of achievement 
in art. science and philosophy, both civilisations died out within a few cen- 
turies of the birth of Christ. In addition to internal stresses and conflicts, 
foreign invaders contributed to the destruction of African civilization. After 
centuries of encouraging foreign enterprise, Egypt found herself overrun by 
waves of invaders — Persians, Macedonians, and Romans. In consequence, the 
African civilization which had for so long inspired the world was plunged into 
historical oblivion. 

In the centuries following the demise of Egypt and Kush, a new culture 
began to develop. This new r culture would generate a resurgence of activity in 
the arts and sciences, as well as the fiery passion of a new religion. It would 
consume all of north Africa and would influence embryonic nations such as 
Spain and France, as well as civilizations already endowed with a cultural 
magic of their own. such as China, India, and Mesopotamia. The religion was 
that of Islam, and those that carried it to the corners of the East were the 

The history of the black Moors and their contribution to Moorish culture 
has been long neglected by traditional historians. The racial makeup of the 
Moors in Spain, as well as the degree of cultural development of the Moors in 
Africa, has been disputed. In this respect the black Moors have been subject to 
the same treatment as have other African or African-influenced cultures— the 
Olmec, the Egyptian, the Harappan of the Indus Valley— and for the same 
reasons. It is my intent here to demonstrate that the Moorish culture was 
largely black in origin, bright in its achievement, and powerful in its influence 
on western civilization. 

Although the term Moor has been put to diverse use, its roots are still 
traceable. Circa 46 B.C., the Roman army entered West Africa where they 
encountered black Africans which they called “Maures" from the Greek ad- 
jective nuntros , meaning dark or black.’ The country of the maurcs , 
Mauretania (not to be confused with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in 
present day West Africa, although obviously the root is the same), existed in 
what is now northern Morocco and western Algeria. The Greeks themselves, 
approaching from the east in search of Egypt, called the black Africans they 
found there Ethiops from the Greek words aithein to burn and ops meaning 
face. 2 Ancient Ethiopia, also known as Kush or Cush, formed an empire in 
much the same location as the present day country of the same name. 


Golden Age of the Moor 



severe i \ ^ ^1°*^ Themim warrior (wearer of the veil) char^r*^ *• e 

ish em f es ? rt J actions which constituted the Almoravid dynastv th tu? a* ° ne ° f tl 
,sh empire in Spain. uynasty, the third great Mooi 

Both the Roman Maure and the Greek Ethiope indicated more than one 
ethnic group. Herodotus, for example, held that Ethiopians occupied all of 
Africa south and west of Libya. Europeans used the words Moor and Ethio- 
pian almost interchangeably to indicate a black African. Several notable black 
Africans in Roman or medieval Europe had “Maur” as a component of their 
name. As Hans Debrunner notes, “the outward suggestion that Mauritius 
might be a black African comes from his [European inscribed] name 
Mauritius ‘the Moor’ and from his legendary home, the Thebaid in Egypt.” 3 
Another example of the same occurs in the case of Johannes Morus, born 
circa 1100, vizier of Sicily. Shakespeare identifies several characters as Moors, 
apparently meaning simply “black African”; among them are Othello and 
Aaron of Titus Andronicus. 4 ; 

The broad use or misuse of the term Moor begs the question: Who were the 
real Moors? Or, as Chancellor Williams queried with a recognizable tinge of 
frustration, “Now, again, just who were the Moors?” He continues, “the orig- 
inal Moors, like the original Egyptians, were black Africans. As amalgamation 
became more and more widespread, only the Berbers, Arabs and coloureds in 
the Moroccan territories were called Moors ” 5 

At the heart of the history of the ancient Moors of the Sahara is a tribe 
known as the Garamantes. According to E. W. Bovill, “ethnologically the 
Garamantes are not easy to place, but we may presume them to have been 
negroid.” 6 Their homeland was in the area later known as the Fezzan in the 
Sahara; their capital city, called Garama or Jerma, lay amidst a tangle of 
trading routes connecting the ancient cities of Ghat, Ghadames, Sabaratha, 
Cyrene, Oea, Carthage and Alexandria. 7 Far from being the obscure nomadic 
community stereotyped in European literature, the Garamantes were one of 
the most redoubtable and intimidating forces of the Sahara. 

The origins of Garamante culture are not easily traced. Rock engravings 
and paintings done by early Saharans, who in all probability became the 
Garamantes, are difficult to date, but some believe the oldest were executed 
before 5000 B.C. These rock paintings show domesticated cattle, men riding 
in horse-drawn chariots, and javelin-armed men riding horses and camels. 
There are over 300 representations of men in horse-drawn chariots alone, a 
fact which supports Herodotus’ description of the fabulous Garamantes. 8 

According to E. W. Bovill, “some paintings give clear evidence of Egyptian 
influence.” 9 They include weapons and dress drawn in great detail as well as 
images of strange dieties. The Garamantes, or their predecessors, occupied 
much of northern Africa and were contemporary with the ancient Egyptian 
civilizations. From this vantage point, they can be considered the ancestors of 
the true Moors. 

The earliest mention of the Garamantes themselves comes from Hero- 
dotus, who described them in the 5th century B.C. as being absorbed in a 
rather sedentary lifestyle. However their endeavors in agriculture and com- 


Golden Age of the Moor 

merce had already made them “very powerful.” 10 In the second century B.C. 
Lucien noted their habits to be far from sedentary, they were “nomads and 
dwellers in tents who made seasonal migrations into the remote south . . . 
They comprised tribes which dwell in towns and villages, and others which 
were pastoral and nomadic” 11 Perhaps in order to protect their trade, they 
developed military prowess to complement their economic power. By the first 
century A.D., Tacitus called them “invincible” 12 , and Rome was in time to 
learn how powerful they really were. Unable to subdue the Garamantes, they 
actually joined them for several trading and exploratory expedition. 13 Again, 
according to Tacitus, the territory they controlled by that time constituted the 
lion’s share of north central Africa; “their home country ... in the heart of the 
Sahara . . . but their territory and inhabitants occupied the perimeter of the 
Syrtic Coast and to the southeast it is said their range extended to the Nile.” 14 
Contemporary with the Garamantes was another group called the Libyans. 
The Libyans, however, were originally Caucasian troglodytes who occupied 
territory in the far north central portion of Africa. 15 Their presence has been 
documented since the first dynasty in Egypt, circa 3100 B.C. Dr. Rosalie 
David, an Egyptologist, describes them as “people with distinctive red or 
blond hair and blue eyes who lived on the edge of the western desert” 16 
bordering Egypt. According to Gerald Massey, the Egyptians called the Ly- 
bians Tamahu. “In Egyptian, Tama means people and created. Hu is white, 
light ivory. Tamahu are the created white people.” 17 The Libyans role in that 
illuminated epoch of African history was to provide a constant irritant to 
lower Egypt. Several border skirmishes took place, culminating in extensive 
raiding during the 6th Dynasty. As DuBois notes, “there came great raids 
upon the Libyans to the west of Egypt. Tens of thousands of soldiers, negros 
particularly from the Sudan, beat this part of the land into subjection.” 18 
Sethos, a Pharaoh in the 18th Dynasty, again confronted the Libyan foe and 
subdued them. 

The amalgamation of the Libyans with other races may be attributed to 
several different factors. Surrounded by darker people on all sides but the 
Mediterranean Sea, the fair-skinned Libyans constituted a small minority 
within the black African continent. In addition, nomads of the Arabian Plate 
fled their barren and drought-stricken homeland in search of more fertile 
lands to occupy. The blending of black Arab and Libyan produced a light- 
brown or olive-skinned people who came to be known as “tawny Moors” or 
white Moors,” often known in history as the “Berbers.” The word Berber had 
its base in a Roman expression “barbari .” When the Romans encountered the 
Libyans they referred to them as barbarians and the coastal region they oc- 
cupied later came to be known as the “Barbary Coast.” The Arabs later 
adopted the term and changed it to Berber. Eventually, the words Libyan and 
Berber became synonymous. 

Another factor in the racial blending of blacks and Libyans was the Roman 



Figure 4. Map of 
Pete Jackson). 

North Africa during Moorish occupation of Iberia (illustration by 


Golden Age of the Moor 



intervention along the northern coast which forced thousands of these Ber- 
bers into the desert seeking protection and aid from its indigenous black 
inhabitants. The alliance of these racially different groups laid the foundation 
for the racial diversity which in later centuries would characterize the Sahara. 
As E. W. Bovill notes, “The Romans . . . antagonized the tribes of the northern 
Sahara and the desert became both a refuge and a recruiting ground for all 
who rebelled against Rome.” 19 The best documented example of this is that of 
Tacfarinas, a Roman-trained Libyan soldier, who appealed to the Garamantes 
for aid in 17 A.D. According to Bovill, “for several years Tacfarinas suc- 
cessfully defied the alien overlords during which time he was twice compelled 
to seek refuge in the desert. On the second occasion, if not the first, it was the 
Garamantes who gave him shelter.” 20 Bovill also speaks of a Berber tribe 
known as the Zenta who, under Roman military pressure, migrated into 
deeper areas of the Sahara. 21 

So in time the Sahara came to be occupied by two distinct groups of people: 
the original Maurs or Moors and the Berbers who later became Tawny Moors. 
The rest of North Africa, from Egypt through the Fezzan and the west of the 
Sahara to “Mauretania” (Morocco and Algeria) were peopled by black Af- 
ricans, also called Moors by the Romans and later by the Europeans. 

Eventually, these Moors would join with Arabs and become a united and 
powerful force. A period of cultural dormancy, characterized by the treachery 
and violence of tribal rivalry, concluded in the 6th century A.D. when a 
commanding and mystic figure arose from Arabia. Known as the prophet 
Mohamet, he brought religious and cultural cohesiveness to the sword-wield- 
ing nomads of the Sahara, as he had done in his native land. “The prophet 
Mohamet turned the Arab tribes, . . . into the Moslem people, filled them with 
the fervour of Martyrs, and added to the greed of plunder the nobler ambition 
of bringing all mankind to the knowledge of the truth.” 22 Two central figures, 
both of whom were black African, did much to aid Mohamet in the dis- 
semination of Islam. Bilal-i-Habesh (Bilal of Ethiopia) and Zayd bin Harith 
both shared a special place in the prophet’s heart. Bilal was the prophet’s 
closest friend, who in the hereafter was chosen by the prophet to protect him. 
It was the voice of Bilal that was used to call the Arabs to prayer. Zayd was a 
great Moorish general who aided greatly in territorial conquest. But before 
continuing the story of Mohamet and the Moors, Mohamet’s native country 
and people must be considered. 

Arabia itself had first been populated by black people. As Drusilla Houston 
states in her classic text, Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire , 
t e Cushites were the original Arabians . . .,” 23 for Arabia was the oldest 
thiopian colony. According to Houston, ‘‘Ancient literature assigns their first 
settlement to the extreme southwestern point of the peninsula. From thence 
they spread northward and eastward over Yemen, Hadramaut and Oman.” 24 
In fact, the ancient Greeks made no distinction between the mother country 

and her colony, calling them both “Ethiopia”. Houston uses linguistics and 
physiognomy to support her contention. “A proof that they [the original 
Arabs] were Hamites [descendants from the Biblical Ham, from whom the 
black race is said to have sprung] lay in the name Himyar, or dusky, given to 
[those that were] the ruling race. The Himyaritic language, now lost, but some 
of which is preserved, is African in origin and character. Its grammar is identi- 
fied with the Abyssinian” (Abyssinia being another name for Ethiopia). 25 
Finally, Houston quotes the Encyclopedia Britannica's article on Arabia; “The 
inhabitants of Yemen, Hadramaut, Oman and the adjoining districts [in Ara- 
bia], in shape of head, color, length and slenderness of limbs and scantiness of 
hair, point to an African origin.” 26 Stone engravings thousands of years old as 
well as modern photographs of Arabians bear testimony to the black African 
characteristics bequeathed Arabia by the original Arabians, the Cushite Ethio- 
pians. 27 According to Houston, “The culture of the Saracens and Islam arose 
and flourished from ingrafting Semitic blood upon the older Cushite root.” 28 

As may be expected, W. E. B. DuBois makes some interesting points regard- 
ing the use of the word “Arab.” Having noted that many Arabs are “dark- 
skinned, sometimes practically black, often have Negroid features, and hair 
that may be Negro in quality,” 29 DuBois reasons that “the Arabs were too 
nearly akin to Negros to draw an absolute color line ” 30 Finally, DuBois con- 
cludes that the expression Arab has evolved into a definition that is more 
religious than racial. “The term Arab is applied to any people professing 
Islam, . . . much race mixing has occurred, so that while the term has a 
cultural value it is of little ethnic significance and is often misleading.” 31 

In his native Arabia, Mohamet rallied great numbers of warriors and set out 
to subdue the east. Mohamet’s death in 632 A.D. did not stop the tremendous 
onslaught of his Arabian knights. They would eventually reach west to the 
Atlantic Coast of Africa, northwest to France and Spain, north to Russia and 
east to India. 

The jihads or crusades through north Africa claimed Egypt in 638, Tripoli 
in 643 and southwest Morocco in 681. With the bulk of north Africa united in 
the name of Allah, Mohamet’s followers looked north to Iberia, “land of 
rivers,” now known as Spain and Portugal. The Arab followers of Mohamet 
had found converts among the African Moors, both black and tawny, and 
both Arab and Moorish officers were later to lead the predominantly Moorish 
soldiers into Iberia. In fact, the followers of Mohamet amassed their greatest 
armies and some of their most outstanding military leaders from the Moors. 

An Arab general named Musa Nosseyr was appointed Governor of North- 
ern Africa in 698 A.D. Although he cast covetous eyes towards Iberia, he 
hesitated, knowing that a campaign on Iberia could exhaust his armies. The 
Visigoths, who had earlier toppled the Roman Empire in Iberia, had ruled for 
over two hundred years. The Visigoths were a vigorous, rather barbaric people 
who, as Christians, believed in religious compensation for their vices. Over 


Golden Age of the Moor 



anrArabian'blood iSh COmmander of the B!ack troops ' This Moor is of mixed African 




time they had become “quite as corrupt and immoral as the Roman nobles 
who had preceded them.” 32 

Yet another obstacle stood between Musa and Iberia. An outpost of the 
Greek Empire, the fortress of Ceuta, rested on the northern tip of Morocco. 
This door to Iberia was guarded by Count Julian, an ally of Roderick, ruler of 
Iberia. Count Julian fought off all Arab/Moorish attacks, and his fortress 
remained impregnable until Julian, for personal reasons, switched his alle- 
giance from Roderick of the Visigoths to Musa Nosseyr of the Moors. 

Tradition has it that Roderick, while responsible for Julian’s daughter’s 
welfare during her training at his court, broke his trust and took advantage of 
her sexually. Julian, furious at this betrayal, quickly reclaimed his daughter 
and sought out Musa. Julian proclaimed to the Arab governor his intent to 
ally himself completely with Musa for the purpose of conquering the rich 
lands of Spain. He offered his own ships along with his knowledge of 
Roderick’s defenses. While consulting with his Khalif, Musa sent an explora- 
tory mission, of five hundred soldiers led by the black Moor Tarif. After the 
reconnaissance mission returned, a success, in July of 710, Musa prepared to 
conquer Spain in earnest. 

Sources indicate that Musa selected another black Moor to lead the attack 
on Spain. DuBois writes “Tarik-bin-Ziad . . . became a great general in Islam 
and was the conqueror of Spain as the commander of the Moorish army 
which invaded Spain.” 33 Stanley Lane-Poole, author of The Moors in Spain , 
also makes reference to “the Moor Tarik with 7000 troops, most of whom 
were also Moors [were sent] to make another raid . . .” 34 

On April 30, 711 A.D., Tariq crossed the straits of Hercules with his 7000 
men, of which “6700 [were] native [Moorish] Africans and 300 [were] 
Arabs.” 35 After landing on the Spanish coast, Tariq seized a great cliff and a 
portion of land around it. Deeming it strategically important, he directed the 
building of a fortress on the site. Tradition holds that his men named the 
fortress after him out of admiration and respect. The name Gabel Tariq, or 
General Tariq, was later corrupted to “Gibraltar”, and its fortress known as 
the “Rock of Gibraltar.” Tariq, leaving his fortress, ventured on to capture 
Algeciras and Carteya. Along his way through the country-side, he found 
many Spanish natives eager to join him against the ruling Visigoths. His army, 
rather than diminishing through attrition, actually swelled in size. “On 18th 
July of the same year, 711, Tariq with about 14,000 troops engaged Roderick at 
the head of some 60,000 troops at the Janda Lagoon by the mouth of the 
Barbate.” 36 Before the battle, knowing they were greatly outnumbered, Tariq 
addressed his solders: “My men, whither can you flee? Behind you lies the sea 
and before you the foe. You possess only your courage and constancy for you 
are present in this country poorer than orphans before a greedy guardian’s 
table. It will be easy to turn this table on him if you will but risk death for one 
instance.” 37 


Golden Age of the Moor 



Tariq’s army won the day and proceeded to capture Ecija, Toledo, Archi- 
dona Elvira, Cordoba and Murcian Oribeula. According to one source, 
“Toledo was actually handed over to the invading Tariq by the Jews of that 
city who also supplied him with arms and horses. Wherever Tariq went, he 
and his troops were welcomed as deliverers from the tyranny of the Vis- 
igoths.” 38 

In 712, Governor Musa rallied 18,000 soldiers, primarily Berbers, and 
crossed the straits to lend support to Tariq. Musa himself captured Cremona, 
Carmona, Sidonia and Medina, while his son Abd-al-Aziz took Seville, Beja 
and Nieblu. Roderick made a final attempt to regain control in 713, but to no 
avail. “Tariq, having been supplied with reinforcements by Musa, finally 
crushed Roderick on the mountain range of Segoyuela . . .” 39 Roderick’s death 
after this battle marked the close of the Visigoths’ rule in Spain. According to 
tradition, Roderick was entombed at Vizen in present day Portugal. 

The historical record clearly shows that the campaign on Spain was orches- 
trated by a black African general and carried out by predominantly black 
African troops. DuBois makes the point that “Spain was conquered not by 
Arabs, but by armies of Berbers and Negroids, [at times] led by Arabs.” 40 

The Arab/Moors in Spain were strikingly benevolent after their victory. 
The natives were not beset by Moors to change their customs, language or 
religion. 41 The Spanish “retained their Romance tongue and enjoyed com- 
plete civil independence with their own churches, laws, courts, judges, bishops 
and counts. The Islamic authority insisted only on the right to approve 
bishops . . .” 42 Only the Berbers, who had helped conquer the land, appear to 
have been unfairly treated by the Islamic state, a fact which later led to a 
Berber revolt throughout the empire. 

The first Moorish Dynasty, the Umayyad, ruled Spain, or Al-Andulus as 
they called it, from 715 to 750. Although some expansion of the empire 
occurred (Lyons, Macon and Chalons-sur-Saone were taken in 729), the focus 
during this period was an internal consolidation rather than external con- 

Many rival Moslem factions threatened to undermine the unity of Islamic 
authority in Spain. The last Umayyed Khalif met his death in Mesopotamia 
in 750, assasinated by a Shiite Moslem. Seventy members of the royal family 
and court also met their death in Damascus at the Shiites’ hands. A new 
Khalif, A Bu’L Abbas, assumed the throne and founded the second Moorish 
Dynasty, the Abbasid. 

Abdurrahmon, a nephew of the former Khalif, fearing for his life, fled into 
exile for five years. During this time he rallied primarily African Moors to- 
gether, with the aim of creating an army to lead against Spain’s new Khalif. 
Finally, in 756, he sailed back to Spain to pit himself against the ruler Yusef. 

The governor of Spain was an Arab named Yusef . . . Abdurrahmon landed 
in Spain, and Yusef . . . tried to come to terms with him by an offer of 

Figure 6. Arrival of a Moorish dignitary (16th or 17th century). 


Golden Age of the Moor 

attractive presents. Abdurrahmon declined the offer, and both armies clashed 
on May 15, 75 6 at Musara and the African won the day.” 43 Thus, the Umayyad 
Dynasty was resurrected in Spain. 

More than simply a capable military commander, Abdurrahmon proved to 
be a humane and effective administrator as well. Under his leadership, Spain 
experienced a dramatic and positive change. By ushering prosperity into 
Spain, Abdurrahmon laid the groundwork for the splendid edifice of Moorish 
cultural accomplishment erected by later generations. 

Land reforms were carried out which eased much of the tax burden for- 
merly placed on the serfs. Another reform gave serfs the option of selling their 
property. Abdurrahmon solved the potential religious conflicts by treating 
Moslem, Christian and Jew alike; “side by side with the new rulers lived the 
Christians and Jews in peace. The latter, rich with commerce and industry, 
were content . . . Learned in all the arts and sciences, cultured and tolerant, 
they were treated by the Moors with marked respect, and multiplied exceed- 
ingly all over Spain; and like the Christian Spaniards under Moorish rule, . . . 
had come to thank their new masters for an era of prosperity such as they had 
never known before.” 44 

Under the auspices of Abdurrahmon and his descendants, the Moors de- 
veloped a culture which in time would awaken all of Europe from its dark age. 
The Moorish culture was a composite culture, since the Moors indulged 
themselves in the acquisition of knowledge from both East and West. By the 
7th and 8th centuries the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Harrappa, Akkad and 
Cush had long since handed the batons of philosophy and science to the 
Greeks, Hebrews, Chinese, Indians and Persians. But through these younger 
civilizations, the Moors learned from the older cultures. 

The Moors would have benefited in their search for knowledge from the 
world’s great library of Alexandria, in Egypt. Unfortunately, it was long since 
destroyed. History has recorded the incident: “The great library of Alex- 
andria, accidentally damaged by Julius Caesar and restored by Mark Antony, 
was intentionally destroyed by a Christian mob on orders of the Christian 
emperor Theodosius in A.D. 389.” 45 The library at Alexandria had con- 
stituted the storehouse of knowledge of the ancient world. 

In spite of this, the Moors set out to quench their insatiable thirst for 
knowledge by “translating into Arabic all they could lay hands on of ancient 
Greek and Sanskrit material, ransacking monasteries for rare coupies of Eu- 
clid, Galen, Plato, Aristotle and Hindu sages.” 46 

An entire book could easily be filled with the accomplishments of Moorish 
culture; unfortunately, neither time nor space permits such an undertaking 

But, briefly, it can be said that they excelled in many fields. Their achieve- 
ments in the sciences were spectacular. The Moors were the first to trace “the 
curvilinear path of rays of light through air;” 47 this discovery in about 1 100 is a 



Figure 7. Moors in Morocco (dated 17th century). 


Golden Age of the Moor 

prerequisite to the design of corrective eyeglasses. Towards the end of the 8th 
century their endeavors in chemistry brought them to the formulation of the 
chemical components of gun powder. Through its Harrapan inheritance, In- 
dia made clear to the Moors some principles of astronomy. “The world is 
round as a sphere, of which the waters are adherent and maintained upon its 
surface by natural equilibrium. It is surrounded by air and all created bodies 
are stable on its surface, the earth drawing to itself all that is heavy in the same 
way as a magnet attracts iron. The terrestial globe is divided into two equal 
parts by the equinoctial line. The circumference of the earth is divided into 
360 ... the earth is essentially round but not of perfect rotundity, being 
somewhat depressed at the poles . . . This is the Indian calculation.” 48 These 
principles, recorded in a Moorish translation of an Indian text, would not be 
comprehended by the rest of Europe for 400 years. 

The Moors pursued practical applications as well as the natural sciences. 
“The use of the astrolabe and the compass, revived again at a later period in 
Europe, were common to [Moorish] navigation.” 49 European military science 
was revolutionized by the introduction of artillery and firearms. The Moors 
were also known for their skill in medicine; “For seven centuries the medical 
schools of Europe owed everything they knew to [Moorish] research. Vivisec- 
tion as well as dissection of dead bodies was practiced in their anatomical 
schools, and women as well as men were trained to perform some of the most 
delicate surgical operations.” 50 They amassed much information in the study 
of the functions of the human body and cures of its diseases. 

Moorish Spain also excelled in city planning; the sophistication of their 

cities was astonishing. According to one historian, Cordova “had 47 1 mosques 
and 300 public baths ... the number of houses of the great and noble were 
63,000 and 200,077 of the common people. There were . . . upwards of 80,000 
shops. Water from the mountains was . . . distributed through every corner 
and quarter of the city by means of leaden pipes into basins of different 
shapes, made of the purest gold, the finest silver, or plated brass as well into 

vast lakes, curious tanks, amazing reservoirs and fountains of Grecian mar- 
ble.” 51 The houses in Cordova were air conditioned in summer by “inge- 
niously arranged draughts of fresh air drawn from the garden over beds of 
flowers, chosen for their perfume, warmed in winter by hot air conveyed 
through pipes bedded in the walls. Bathrooms supplied hot and cold water 
and there were tables of gold, set with emeralds, rubies and pearls.” 52 This list 
of impressive works appears endless; it includes lamp posts that lit their streets 
at night to grand palaces, such as the one called Azzahra with its 15,000 doors. 

Such a well-developed culture depends on the efforts of talented people. A 
lack African Moor named Zaryab is representative of the fullness and variety 
of Moorish culture. 

Zaryab was a “renaissance man” before the Renaissance. He entered the 

country of Al-Andulus in 821. He was skilled in both arts and sciences. A 

Figure 8. Remake of a sketch of a Moorish sultan and an emissary. Remade 
century Spain from a 14th-century original. 


Golden Age of the Moor 



celebrated musician, he is credited for improving the lute by adding an extra 
string, making five in all, and also for founding a great school of music. A 
botanist as well as a musician, it is Zaryab whom asparagus-lovers may thank 
for the introduction of this delicacy to Europe. In addition, Zaryab excelled as 
an astronomer and geographer. According to one historian, his memory was 
prodigious; “He was, moreover, gifted with so much penetration and wit, he 
had so deep an acquaintance with the various branches of polite literature, he 
possessed in so eminent a degree the charms of polite conversation and the 
talents requisite to entertain an audience . . . that there never was either before 
or after him a man of his profession who was more generously beloved and 
admired. Kings and great people took him for a pattern of manners and 
education, and his name became forever celebrated among the inhabitants of 
Andulasia” 53 Zaryab evidently was an innovator within fashionable circles: 
“Zaryab was a leader of fashion in the most civilized court of Europe in the 
early half of the ninth century” 54 He “set the fashion of changing dress for 
four seasons of the year instead of for only two as was the custom before his 
day.” 55 Being a connoisseur of food and drink and its accoutrements, “He 
. . . introduced the fashion of being served on crystal instead of on gold or 
silver . . ” 56 Some of Zaryab’s fans were very highly placed; according to one 
historian, “He was reknowned throughout Spain, and on one occasion, when 
he came to Cordova, the Sultan himself, to show the respect which he held [for 
Zaryab] rode out to meet him.” 57 

With the contributions of individuals such as Zaryab, Spain flourished. But 
amidst the beauty and wealth, a socio-political plague was spreading: “Jews 
who had . . . been slaves now began trading in slaves.” 58 According to T. B. 
Irving, between the years of 786 and 1009, “Franks and Jews traded Slavs and 
Germans who had been taken prisoner ... on the Frankish territories. Thus 
“slav” and “slave” became interchangeable [terms] . . . They [the Franks and 
Jews] made young boys into eunuchs at Verdun . . . The slaves were driven 
from France to Spain in great herds like cattle. When they reached their 
destination, the men were purchased as servants or laborers, the women as 
household help or concubines . . . Many women were also imported from 
Galacia, for their blonde appearance attracted the Arab gentlemen. Slaves 
were also traded from out the Adriatic. These captives too were Slavs, and 
their merchants chiefly Christians.” 59 

This slave trade changed the racial mix in Al-Andulus. The use of European 
women as concubines gradually lightened the complexion of Moorish Spain. 

Through these various processes [Moorish] Spain became more Caucasian in 
blood than is generally realized ... It was always blond women, whether Slavs, 
Germans or Galicians, who were in special demand.” 60 This practice was not 
exclusive to Spain; W. E. B. DuBois notes that during the 16th century “the 
Mohammedan rulers of Egypt were buying white slaves by the tens of thou- 
sands in Europe and Asia and bringing them to Syria, Palestine and the Valley 
of the Nile.” 61 

Figure 9. A Moor in Morocco (dated 1841). 

Golden Age of the Moor 

White slavery became widespread in Spain, Africa and the Meditteranean. 
The polygamous family structure common to many African cultures expe- 
dited the process of amalgamation and the consequences wrought havoc upon 
the inhabitants of Al-Andulus. Licentiousness and immorality became more 
and more prevalent in the Moorish social structure. Predictably, there was a 
gradual eroding of virtues, philosophy and the pursuit of cultural excellence. 
Though Abdurrahman did not encourage or personally patronize the slave 
trade, its continued persistence within his empire inevitably led to its collapse. 
Concerning this matter it has been said: “This penetration [of the black race 
by the Caucasian] was facilitated not alone by the dominant position of the 
African race, but also by its tendency to polygamy. Abdul-Aziz-Ibn-Muza not 
only wed the widow of Roderico, [for which he was murdered by the Arabs] 
but took many Christian virgins for his concubines. On the other hand, 
Romiro II of Leon, fascinated by the beauty of a Saracen maid . . . slew his 
legitimate wife and married the exotic creature by whom he had a numerous 
progeny. The two cases were typical: On the one hand, a violent penetration of 
the conquered people by the polygamous invader, through their womenfolk; 
and on the other, the attraction exerted by the Saracen women, . . . upon men 
of the defeated race.” 62 

Abdurrahmon was succeeded by a series of comparatively ineffectual 
rulers. His son, Hisham I, ruled from 788 until 796. “During his reign, the 
Christian independent kingdom of Asturias in Southern Spain . . . became a 
source of trouble with which Hisham had to deal.” 63 He in turn was succeeded 
by Abdurrahman’s grandson, Hakam I, who ruled from 796 to 822. This 
period was characterized by many minor social upheavals which lead to a 
series of revolts. Abd-al-Rahman III ruled from 912 to 961 and was followed 
by Hisham II who during his reign stepped down; in his place, Spain was ruled 
by one Al-Mansour from 981 to 1002. In 1009 civil disorder tore asunder the 
Empire of the Umayyads. Divided now into separate principalities, the Sul- 
tans ruled independently, one from the other, which caused great loss of both 
military and political power. This made them vunerable to attack by hostile 
Christian factions. In 1031 the Khalif was dethroned and the Umayyad dy- 
nasty came to a close: “It had lasted for a period of two hundred and seventy 
years.” 64 

With the collapse of the Umayyad dynasty in Spain, the security of military 
and political structures also came to an end. The Moors found themselves at 
the mercy of Christian expansionists who had been waiting for the oppor- 
tunity to recapture territories long lost. The rising threat of Christian inter- 
vention and dominance began to create an air of fearful consternation 
amongst the inhabitants of Al-Andalus. 

During this period as fate would have it, a strong and powerful movement 
was stirring in the African Saharah. This force would proliferate so rapidly 
that it would consume in time all of the central and northwestern sections of 

Chandler 171 

the continent, and play a major role in the history of the Spanish Moors. 

As stated earlier, many of the Berber tribes had been forced into the deeper 
recesses of the desert. 65 “The consequence of many wars in Northern Africa 
had been to force down certain Berber tribes upon the confines of 
Negroland.” 66 They eventually mixed with black Africans who occupied the 
same territories. This fusion brought into being some of the most proud, 
brave and fearsome clans of the desert who were identified by the wearing of a 
veil around the face. “From time immemorial,” says Ibn Khaldren, “the 
Mobt-Themim (or Wearers of the Veil) had been in the Sandy Desert.” 67 

The Mobt-Themim formed seven orders of the northwestern desert and 
during the reign of the Umayyad dynasty they were “already a powerful na- 
tion obeying hereditary kings” 68 which ruled in what came to be known as the 
Desert Empire. £ 

There came to the throne of this empire a black ruler of the name of Yahya 
Ibn Ibrahim. Being a muslim, he “tried to convert his subjects from their 
traditional African religion to Islam. Yahia and his subjets were not Arabs. 
They were indigenous African people.” 69 

In 1048 Yahya made his pilgrimage to Mecca, and upon his return brought 
back with him for the instructon of his people a religious leader, Ibn Yasin. 

Ibn Yasin endeavored to instruct and convert Yahya’s people but the lack of 
interest they had towards Islam coupled with the harshness and severity of its 
disciplines only served to aggravate them; finally they rebelled and cast out 

Ibn Yasin and his followers left and established themselves on an island in 
the Senegal River where they lived as recluses. “They became known as Al- 
Murabitun, which meant people of the ribat. It is this word . . . that became 
corrupted in Spanish as Almoravid.” 70 

In time his community attracted great numbers of people and “when their 
number reached one thousand, Ibn Yasin, . . . declared a religious war against 
their . . . non-muslim converts.” 71 This time they met with limited success; 
“The Almoravids converted numbers of Sudanese negros but gained no politi- 
cal control over them . . . Among the converts was the King of the Man- 
dingos.” 72 In 1042 with Yahya serving as General they began to conquer West 
Africa and when their numbers were thirty thousand strong, Ibn Yasin in- 
vaded Sijilmasa which was his home and began to move northward towards 
Morocco which he also conquered.” 73 

However, misfortune plagued the Almoravids after this period. “Yahya died 
in 1056 and was replaced by his brother Abu Bakar,” 74 and the following year 
saw the demise of Ibn Yasin. Abu Bakar furthered his conquest until he had 
an empire which “extended from the Senegal in West Africa to Morocco on 
the Mediterranean coast ” 75 

In 1061 disorder broke out along the southern fringes of their Desert Em- 
pire and Abu Bakar hastened home to restore order, leaving his northern 



territories under control of Yusuf Ibn Tashifin. Yusuf was Abu Bakar’s cousin 
and so naturally was a black African. DuBois describes him: “Yusuf their 
leader [the Almoravids], was himself a Negro. The "Roudh-el-Kartos,’ a 
Moorish work, describes him as having ‘woolly hair’ and being brown in 
color.” 76 Yusuf proved to be a wise and capable leader. “In the year 1062 Yusuf 
laid the foundation of the town of Morocco with his own hands, and not long 
afterwards declared the independence of the northern kingdom of which it 
was to become the capital.” 77 Thus, a black Moor appropriately founded the 
city of Morocco. 

By the year 1082, Yusuf had long been hailed as the supreme ruler of the 
northwestern portion of the African Plate. But in the interim from 1062 to 
1082, much had transpired to the north and south of him. To the south in 
1076 Abu Bakar had attacked, sacked, and pillaged the Empire of Ghana, 
bringing to a close one of the “glories of Sudanic Africa” 78 and to the north in 
Spain Alfonso VI took Toledo and “swore to drive the Arabs into the sea at 
Gibraltar.” 79 

Yusuf, content with the empire he had established in his homeland, appar- 
ently never once contemplated assault on Al-Andulus. But within the later 
half of 1082, hundreds of Moors and Arabs had flocked back to Africa to 
escape the tyranny of Alfonso and the persecution by the Christians. These 
men, “with tears in their eyes and sorrow in their hearts, had come to Yusuf to 
implore his protection.” 80 Finally in 1083 the Governor of Seville, Al-Mutam- 
med came and begged assistance against the Christians. Yusuf consented and 
amassed one of the most formidable armies seen by either Arab or Moor. “It is 
stated that when Yusuf crossed to Spain there was no tribe of the western 
desert that was not represented in his army, and it was the first time that the 
people of Spain had ever seen camels used for the purpose of mounting 
cavalry.” 81 Being that Yusuf was black, and the western portion of Africa was 
also predominantly black, it was only natural that the core of those he enlisted 
would be black. The author goes on to say, “Forming the army which fought 
at Zalakah in 1086 . . . were thousands of blacks armed with Indian swords . . . 
This battle drove the Christian forces out of southern Sapin and laid the 
foundaton for Yusufs Spanish Empire” 82 

Y usuf marched onward to Seville, where he found the state of its inhabi- 
tants abhorrant. “It strikes me,” he commented, “that this man [meaning the 
King of Seville] is throwing away the power which has been placed in his 
hands. Instead of giving his attention to the good administration and defence 
of his kingdom he thinks of nothing else than satisfying the cravings of his 
passions” 83 Soon afterwards, Yusuf left Spain and returned to Africa. Later 
he was informed by his Generals that they [his army] were doing the whole of 
the fighting against the Christians “while the Kings of Al-Andulus remained 
sunk in pleasure and sloth.” 84 

This infuriated Yusuf and he ordered his Generals to conquer the Kings of 

Chandler 175 

Spain and set in their place Governors of their choosing. This officially 
ushered in the Third Moorish Dynasty of Spain, the Almoravid. 

As Flora L. Shaw exclaims, “Once more a supreme Sultan [sat] upon the 
throne of Al-Andulus, his conquest and the dynasty which he founded must 
be regarded as an African conquest and an African dynasty. The Almoravids 
ruling in Spain were identically the same race as that which moving from the 
West established kingdoms along the courses of the Niger and the Senegal.” 85 

Yusuf ruled both Spain and Africa until his death in 1106, when he was 
succeeded by his son. Thus the Almoravid dynasty continued to reign with a 
double court, one in Africa and one in Spain. 

For years the Almoravids carried on the splendor that had always charac- 
terized Moorish Spain. All taxes were .abolished in Africa and trade flour- 
ished. “The Almoravid Empire was one of great prosperity and learning but 
lasted for only a century.” 86 Yusufs son, being inexperienced, lost the throne 
and the African dominion was overthrown in 1142; the Spanish dominion fell 
three years later in 1145. This gave rise to the second great African dynasty to 
rule Spain and the fourth and last Moorish Dynasty — The Almohade. 

Under the Almohades, who also hailed from the western fringes of Africa, 
Moorish glory in Spain was well maintained. Great monuments were con- 
structed, the most treasured being the Tower of Seville. Grand observatories as 
well as splendid mosques were built. “African rule in Spain was at its summit 
in the Almohade period during which the greatest philosopher of the middle 
ages reached his maturity. Abu-Al-Walid Mohammed ibn Mohammad ibn 
Rashd, has been known in the west by the name of Averroes. He was an 
African who lived in Spain. There were numerous outstanding African schol- 
ars in Spain throughout the Muslim period and because of them, no Euro- 
pean country came close to Spain in terms of cultural brilliance.” 87 

Averroes lived from 1126-1198. “He was a celebrated medical scientist, 
jurist, Theologian and astronomer.” 88 Many of his works because of their 
excellence, were translated into several languages and he developed a philoso- 
phy which came to be known as Averroism. 

Averroes’ heyday was the lull before the storm, for the dynasty of the Al- 
mohads had grown extremely passive amidst the lavishness in which they had 
grown accustomed. This gave new incentive to the Christians to rally their 
legions and subdue the Moors once and for all. “It is stated that no less than 
three million Moors were banished between the fall of Grenada and the first 
decade of the seventeenth century.” 89 Valencia fell to the Christians in 1238; 
Cordova in 1239; Seville in 1260. Though the last dynasty had perished from 
Spanish soil in 1230 and the Moors exiled from a land nurtured by their 
culture and wisdom, their influence was felt in Europe’s schools of medicine, 
mathematics, and philosophy for two hundred years. “At the moment of the 
final expulsion of the Moors from Spain, the Catholic Cardinal Ximenes 
ordered the destruction of the libraries . . ” 90 As one author so brilliantly 


Golden Age of the Moor 

exclaims, “The misguided Spaniards knew not what they were doing . . . The 
infidels were ordered to abandon their native and picturesque costume, to 
assume the hats and breeches of the Christians, to give up bathing and adopt 
the dirt of their conquerors . . . The Moors were banished and for a while 
Christian Spain shone like the moon, with a borrowed light, then came the 
eclipse, and in that darkness Spain has grovelled ever since.” 91 So ended “the 
Empire of the Magnificent ” The Moors had ruled Spain for 800 years. 

Others have given a different analysis of the Moorish Empire’s racial 
makeup and history. According to many European historians, all civilized 
Moors were actually tawny or white Moors, whose ancestry could supposedly 
be traced through olive-skinned Arabs to Europe herself. For example, al- 
though historian John Crow acknowledges that “Africa begins at the 
Pyrynees,” he is quick to qualify this statement. 

One must be careful here to specify that the Africa here referred to is not 
the lower part of the Dark Continent peopled by black men. It is northern 
Africa, the ancient homeland of the Iberians, of the Carthaginians, a 
Semitic race, of the Jews themselves, and of the Moors, composed of many 
Arabic-speaking groups .” 92 

On the following page is a picture of some descendents of the Moors; the 
caption illustrates a curious perspective unique to European scholars: “ Young 
Tebbu women at the Bordai Oasis, Tebesti , Chad. Ethnologically they are a 
link between the Berber Tueregs and the Negros of the Sudan” Thus, the 
subjects “link” a racially mixed group, the Berbers, and an entirely black 
group of Sudanese negroes. In spite of their parentage, however, the women 
are described as follows: ‘Although they are not Negros, many of them are 
dark-skinned and have negroid features/’ 93 

For these historians, or for their audiences, much is to be gained from these 
elaborate constructs. The theme underlying all these inconsistencies is that 
white culture is superior to black. The technique in each case is to separate the 
black African peoples from their achievements. Thus the ancient Egyptians, 
architects, builders and scientists par excellence, are Mediterranean types; the 
Ghanese Kingdom, one of the most stable and developed in Africa after Egypt 
and Kush, was masterminded by a white royal dynasty. “The Kingdom of 
Ghana was of considerable age, having had twenty-two kings before the Hijra 
and as many after. The ruling dynasty was white but the people were black 
Mandingo.” 94 Of such a statement there is no possible way to measure its 
absurdity. The Moors, whose military prowess conquered much of the East, 
and whose religion caught the souls of millions of people, are held to be white 
or swarthy, but never black. In each case, the race and its historical contribu- 
tions have been divided. 

Another tactic of European historians bent on affirming the superiority of 
their civilization is used in those cases where the origin of a culture has 





Golden Age of the Moor 

already been acknowledged as being black African. This tactic involves the 
denigration of the accomplishments of this black African civilization. 

Yet another tactic of European historians has been to ignore African civi- 
lization altogether. “A History of Modern World” published in 1950, serves as 
a typical example of this approach. This 902 page book devotes a grand total 
of 8 pages to the history of Africa, or rather to the story of the partition of 
Africa following the 1805 conference at Berlin. As the text states on page 639, 
“in fifteen years the entire continent was parcelled out”, with the exception of 
Ethiopia and Liberia. The remainder of the continent belonged to one of the 
European powers. The flyleaf of the cover, apparently unwittingly, gives the 
author’s definition of the “world” mentioned in its title: the book is described 
as “a brilliant and highly readable history of Modern Europe in its interna- 
tional setting . . ” 95 

The same text will also serve as an example to illustrate another blindspot 
of European historians. The authors, who were educated and taught at Ivy 
League Schools, are aware of the impact of Europe on Africa, but not of any 
significant reciprocal current of influence. Thus the European colonization of 
Africa is discussed, but the influence of ancient Egypt on the Greek-Roman 
civilizations is ignored completely. 

This essay has attempted to transcend the obstacles inherent in “discover- 
ing” African history. Napoleon’s observation that “History is a set of lies 
agreed upon” is particularly apt in relation to African history. The challenge 
posed by this research was to sift through the prejudices discussed above, 
prevalent in much of the available materials, while stubbornly pursuing 
knowledgeable, objective sources, which seemed to be the least accessible. 
Amidst the ignorance, fabrication and prejudice lay pearls of truth regarding 
the bright achievements of Africans and African culture. This essay has delib- 
erately placed emphasis on the role of black Africans in Moorish civilization 
rather than the civilization as a whole. During the research for this paper, 
however, it became clear that Moorish civilization — in its entirety — had suf- 
fered in the eyes of the world on account of its African heritage. In an attempt 
to set the record straight, highlights of Moorish achievements in general have 
been included. 

Moorish civilization should take its place besides the other great African or 
African-influenced cultures— Egyptian, Harrapan, Kushite, and Olmec. A1 
Andulus had a special role to play in history. After the Roman Empire’s 
collapse, Spain was like a riverbed gone dry; the rising sea of Moorish culture, 
saturated with the wisdom of the ages, replenished the river bed and formed a 
mighty waterway. This river of Moorish civilization, through its tributaries, 
regenerated the surrounding land that was medieval Europe, thus ushering in 
a great rebirth of cultural activity. Thus, through their gift of the renaissance 
the Moors constituted a link between the ancient civilizations and the mod- 
ern world. 




1. The Oxford English Dictionary (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p 1846 

2. The Oxford English Dictionary , p. 900. 

3. Hans Werner Debrunner, Presence and Prestige: Africans in Europe (Basel: Basler Afrika 
Bibliographien, 1979) pp. 19-20. 

4. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare , edited by George Lymon Kittredge (Boston- 
1936), p. 971, p. 1241. 

5. Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization (Chicago: Third World Press 1974) 

p. 221. 

6. E.W. Bovill, Golden Trade of the Moors (London: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 31. 

7. Historical Atlas of Africa, Gen’l Editors J.E Ade Ajayi and Michael Crowden (New York: 
Cambridge University, 1985), p. 16. 

8. E.W. Bovill, p. 15. 

9. E.W. Bovill, p. 15. 

10. E.W. Bovill, p. 30. 

11. E.W. Bovill, p. 31. 

12. L.C. Briggs, Tribes of London, 1960, p. 34. 

13. E.W. Bovill, pp. 34-37. 

14. E.W. Bovill, pp. 30-31. 

15. Budgett Meakin, The Moorish Emphire (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Company, 1899), p. 


16. A. Rosalie David, The Making of the Past: The Egyptian Kingdoms (Turnhout, Belgium: 
Eisevier-Phaidon, 1975), pp. 13-14. 

17. Gerald Massey, Book of Beginnings Voll University Books, 1881), p. 27. 

18. W.E.B. DuBois, The World and Africa, (New York: International Publishers, 1972), p. 111. 

19. E.W. Bovill, p. 29. 

20. E.W. Bovill, p. 33. 

21. E.W. Bovill, p. 38. 

22. Stanley Lane-Poole, The Moors in Spain (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887), p. 3. 

23. African Presence in Early Asia, Ivan van Sertima, editor (New Brunswick, N,J,: Transaction 
Books, 1985), p. 55. 

24. African Presence, p. 55. 

25. African Presence, p. 55. 

26. African Presence, p. 55. .... 

27. See illustrative photographs in Rashidi’s introduction to African Ptesence in Eat \ Asia , pp. 


28. African Presence, p. 56. 

29. W.E.B. DuBois, p. 184. 

30. W.E.B. DuBois, p. 184. 

31. W.E.B. DuBois, p. 184. 

32. Lane-Poole, p. 7. 

33. W.E.B. DuBois, p. 183. 

34. Lane-Poole, p. 13. ,• 

35. George O. Cox, African Empires and Civilizations (New York: African Heritage Mu 1 
Publishers, 1974), p. 134. 

36. Cox, p. 135. 

37. Cox, p. 135. 

38. Cox, p. 135. 

39. Cox, p. 135. 

40. DuBois, p. 184. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

41,42. Cox, p. 136. 

43. Cox, p. 142. 

44. Cox, p. 143. 

45. Peter Tompkins, Secrets of the Great Pyramid (New York: Harper Celapnon Books, 1971), p. 3. 

46. Tompkins, p. 4. 

47. A Tropical Dependency , Flora L. Shaw (Lady Lugard). 

48. Shaw, p. 38. 

49. Shaw, p. 39. 

50. Shaw, p. 39. She later explains: “It is also interesting to note that in the great days of Moham- 
medan Spain, [Moorish] women were not confined, as in the East, to harems, but appeared freely in 
public and took their share in all the intellectual, literary, and even scientific movements of the day. 
Women held schools in some of the principle towns. There were women poets, historians, and 
philosophers, as well as women surgeons and doctors.” Shaw, p. 49. An example of this was that the 
daughter and grandmother of the celebrated Moorish Pharmacist, Ibn Zohr, were both accom- 
plished female doctors. 

51. Shaw, p. 40. 

52. Shaw, p. 41. 

53. Shaw, p. 45. 

54. Shaw, p. 45. 

55. Shaw, p. 45. 

56. Shaw, P- 45. 

57. Shaw, p. 44. 

58. Cox, p. 144. 

59. Cox, p. 144. 

60. Cox, p. 144. 

61. W.E.B. DuBois, p. 52. 

62. Cox, p. 146. 

63. Cox, p. 147. 

64. Cox, p. 147. 

65. 66. Shaw, pp. 52, 53. 

67. Shaw, p. 53. 

68. Cox, p. 149. 

69. Cox, p. 149. 

70. Cox, p. 149. 

71. W.E.B. DuBois, p.205. 

72. Cox, p. 149. 

73. Tropical Dependency, p. 55. 

74. Cox, p. 150. 

75. DuBois, p. 205. 

76. Tropical Dependency, p. 55. 

77. Tropical Dependency, p. 53. 

78. Shaw, p. 56. 

79. Shaw, p. 56. 

80. Shaw, p. 56. 

81. Shaw, p. 56. 

82. Flora Shaw, p. 56. 

83. Flora Shaw, p. 57. 

84. Flora Shaw, pp. 56. 

85. Cox, p. 151. 

86. Cox, p. 159. 

87. Cox, p. 154. 




Jose V. Pimienta-Bey 

To a number of Western historians the term “Moor” conjures up an image 
of a barbarous and fanatical people who threatened Christianity and even 
“civilization” itself. Such “medieval” followers of Mohammed are often 
regarded by myopic Western scholars as little more than efficient soldiers 
who, during the course of their conquest and international prominence, simply 
absorbed the superior cultural attributes of the peoples they conquered. Students 
of English literature would probably imagine the “Moor” as the fictional 
Othello, whose noble nature and naivete led this Shakespearean character into 
the blackness of tragedy. This image of the Moor was obviously conceived 
within the psyche of Britain’s literary genius William Shakespeare, and 
Shakespeare was partly a reflection of the perception of English society at that 
time. Although both of these stereotyped images of the Moor carry elements 
of truth, there is a great deal more to his story. 

Western scholarship has characteristically dragged its feet on the issue of 
the historical significance of the Moor. Very little has been offered within the 
classroom that has not resembled the two extreme images mentioned above. 
The Moor’s largely obscure fate, however, is not due to his insignificance in 
the history and development of Western civilization, but, rather, to the 
judgement passed upon him out of jealousy at his great influence! The 
religious and ethnic/“racial” prejudices of several European historians seems 
to have prevented most contemporary histories from presenting a more thor- 
ough and balanced view of the Moor and Islam, especially as they relate to 
Christian Europe. 

While most High School and College students are familiar with the Classi- 
cal Renaissance of Europe — complete with Greco-Roman literature and the 
art of Michelangelo — few of them have ever heard of the scientific Renaissance 
in Europe which took place during the “medieval” era, in the 12th and 13th 
centuries. In my opinion, this is intentional. For behind Europe s Scientific 
Enlightenment,” we find many African Muslims. In fact, we find that the very 
foundation and structure of “Western” Science and Academe is built upon the 
erudition of these people known as Moors. Moorish influence primarily came 
to the West via the Iberian peninsula, later to be renamed “al-Andalus” by the 




Moorish and Arab conquerors. But these non-European Ishmir ™ i 
would also occupy and control Sicily, pans of the Italian mainland, aScme 

Usmg the fratts of ancient knowledge which these primarily M„S 
people had preserved from the cultures of Kemet (Egypt) and Greece T 
Moors (and Arabs) further developed the ancient wisdom as well as crea eH 
new areas of science and philosophy. Initially, Arabian nationals had steered 
the ship of "Islamic Culture,” which had taken on board various groups Bui 
the contributions to the culture and science were not simply Arabian although 
Arabic would dominate as the language of the educated Muslim Moors 
included. Needless to say, not all of the achievements of Muslim erudition are 
traceably African. But as I shall show, much of the scientific genius of al- 
Andalus was of an African nature, primarily because the blood of Africans 
was most dominant among Iberia’s non-European populace. Therefore, when 
we speak of the civilizing effect of Andalus upon the continent of Europe, we 
must visualize Africans (so-called “Blacks”) as among the main civilizers. 

Several histories have endeavored to weigh the value of the African Islamic 
intellectual presence within Western scholarship. This essay will provide a 
general overview of western Europe’s scholarly relations with the Moors (and 
Arabs) of al-Andalus (Spain). It will begin with a discussion of the ethnicity 
of the Moors, and the confusion which surrounds this discourse. Following 
this, elements of the social and educational condition of al-Andalus will be 
provided as well as a number of references to her scholars and their achieve- 
ments. Contrasts will also be drawn between Andalus and medieval Christian 

Europe. Another major aspect of this essay will focus upon Christian/western 
Europe’s medieval tradition of translation, and the role which the Moors and 
the Arabic language played in developing the Western universities. Whenever 
relevant, the Catholic Church will be discussed. In addition, considerable 

emphasis will be placed upon Catholic Spain’s Alfonso X and his school of 
translators, for if al-Andalus was the primary catapult of Moorish erudition, 
then Alfonso’s translators would have certainly been the shot. 

Learned and revered European scholars such as Adelard of Bath, Roger 
Bacon and Thomas Aquinas, represent just a few of Europe’s erudite elite 
who came into considerable contact with Moorish knowledge. The historical 
reality of the medieval European’s study of, and reliance upon, Moorish 
scholarship will be discussed. Besides Andalus/Moorish Spain, other avenues 
for western Europe’s acquisition of Muslim scientific and philosophical skills 
will be outlined and evaluated. The ultimate consequence of European tutelage 
under the Moors (and other non-European peoples) of Andalus was the 
establishment and successful proliferation of academic institutions within the 
nations of Europe, and the progression of European societies as a whole. The 
extensive presence of Moorish scholarship within Christian Europe’s finest 
medieval universities can easily be seen. To summarize, this essay will reveal 
medieval Europe’s studies of, and reliance upon, Moorish scholarship and 
culture for the development of her own universities and societies. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

The Question of Ethnicity: 

“Los moros de la hueste todos vestidos del sirgo et de os panos de color que 
ganaran ... las caras dellos negras como la pez el mas fremoso dellos era 
negro como la olla”/ “All the Moorish soldiers were dressed with silk and 
black wool that had been forcibly acquired . . . their black faces were like pitch 
and the most handsome of them was like (black as) a cooking pan.” 1 

Those were the words of the thirteenth century Spanish monarch Alfonso X 
(also known as “The Wise”), in describing the Muslim invasion of Spain in 
the eighth century. At the time of the invasion the term “Moorish” (moros) 
referred to one specific African ethnic (national) group; even during the time 
of Alfonso it apparently carried that same single meaning. But by the end of 
Europe’s “Renaissance” eras it had taken on several applications. Today, 
multiple representations often come to mind when one hears the term “Moor” 
or “Moorish.” Moor/Moorish has even become a synonym for an “Arab” or 
“Berber” as well as a general term for any and all Muslims of the Middle 
Ages. The mere presence of such confusing ambiguity surrounding terminology 
and usage may actually provide some insight into how most Westerners have 
chosen to remember the Moors and their illustrious medieval-era culture. For 
in light of the general distaste which Western histories have typically had for 
dark-skinned Africans of any era, it is possible that much of the confusion 
surrounding just what a Moor was/is, may be the residue left by Western 
scholars who intentionally sought to hide or misrepresent the truth regarding 
the history and cultural significance of “Blacks” in western civilization. 

Titus Burckhardt distinguishes himself with a fairly well detailed and 
illustrated confession of the Moorish roots of western Europe’s intellectual 
and cultural development. Burckhardt reveals this in his text Moorish Culture 
In Spain (trans by Alisa Jaffa, N.Y. McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1972). Yet, this 
German-born historian lapses into a racist stance when he contends in his 
Foreword that the reference “Arabic Spain” would be more appropriate than 
“Moorish Spain,” since the Muslim inhabitants spoke Arabic. Why is there 
any need to disconnect the description “Moorish” from Spain? Interestingly, 
Burckhardt doesn’t tell us how or why Andalus/Iberia came to be known first 
and foremost as Moorish Spain. Ironically, he tells us later that “Moor”/ 
“Moorish” comes from the Latin term Mauri which means “BLACK’VDARK 
in complexion! 2 

In a number of histories the Moors of medieval Andalus are often associated 
with the “Berber” peoples of contemporary North Africa (Maghrib). Several 
Western historians frequently point out how the phenotype of the more 
modern-day “Berber” often bears a great resemblance to the “typical” Euro- 
pean/“white.” Fair skin, straight or slightly curly hair, and aquiline noses, are 
commonly presented as the predominant standard of the present-day “Berber.” 
These phenotypical “Berbers” are regarded not as the only types but as the 


unchanged descendants of the illustrious Moors of the Middle Ages But is 
this appropriate? Is there only one standard phenotype for what a “Berber”/ 
Moor was and is? Have the Moors/“Berbers” always been primarily akin to a 
“White” phenotype, or is this the result not only of later intermixtures but also 
of a later Eurocentric academia which effectively imposed this perspective in 
the interest of its own racial politics? [see illus. 1] 

The term Berber is believed to have come from the Latin word barbari 
which the Romans used to categorize all the indigenous peoples of northern 
and western Africa (A/awretania) who resisted their invading Imperial armies 3 
Following the establishment of the religion of Islam in the 7th century 
Arabian nationals are said to have then adopted the Roman term as their own 
designate for these indigenous Maghribi peoples, which they too encountered 
in trade and war. The Afabs are said to have altered the reference only slightly 
and barbari! became Berber . 4 

Cheikh Anta Diop presents another assessment of the term “Berber” and 
the origins of the Moors. Dr. Diop contends that the term “Berber” is etymo- 
logically tied to the term ber which implies that the “Berbers” were foreign. 
He writes: 

The root of this word (berber) was probably of Negro rather than Indo- 
European origin. In reality, it is an onomatopoeic repetition of the root 
Ber. This kind of intensification of a root is general in African languages, 
especially in Egyptian. 

He continues: 

Moreover, the root Bar in Wolof, means “to speak rapidly,” and Bar-Bar 
would designate a people that speaks an unknown language, therefore a 
foreign people . 5 

Dr. Diop also goes on to say that the Moors are descendants of “post- 
Islamic invaders.” He states: 

starting from Yemen, (the Moors) conquered Egypt, North Africa, and 
Spain between the seventh and fifteenth centuries. From Spain they fell 
back on Africa. Thus the Moors are basically Arab Moslems whose 
installation in Africa is quite recent. Numerous manuscripts preserved by 
the principal Moorish families in Mauritania today, manuscripts in which 
their genealogy is minutely traced since their departure from Yemen, 
testify to their origin. Moors are therefore a branch of those whom it is 
customary to call Semites . 6 

Dr. Diop may or may not be correct in his assessment of the origin of the 
word Berber . However, what needs to be questioned is the criteria by which 
certain Africa-based peoples have been placed in the category of “Berber. 
Another important question is how long the term has been used. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 1. A Moroccan “folklore” group which would commonly be categorized as “berber.” Note the distinct Africoid 
features. [From a Moroccan Tourist book: Morocco Tangiers, Ministry of Moroccan Tourism, 1988] 



I was a bit disappointed with Dr. Diop on his brief assessment of the Moors. 
For a man who so often analyzed words and their significance, Diop failed to 
address the etymology of the word “Moor.” Wayne B. Chandler in his essay: 
“The Moor: Light of Europe’s Dark Age,” informs us that the English word 
“Moor” originally comes from the Greek adjective “Mauros,” which literally 
means “black” or very dark in color. The Romans would later adopt the word 
as a reference for the black-skinned inhabitants they encountered in Africa. 
Again, we recall that is was the ancient Romans who called the entire region 
of northwestern Africa Mauretania. 1 Needless to say, this translates from the 
Latin as “the land of the black-skinned people.” 

On the issue of the Moors coming originally from Yemen in the seventh 
century, Diop himself tells us that Yemen “was a Negro Ethiopian colony and 
remained so until the birth of Mohammed.” 8 He also informs us that Ghez/ 
Ge’Ez, the language of Abysinnia, “is a living remnant of the ancient lan- 
guage of Yemen.” 9 With regard to the “Arab” element of the Moors and 
Africa’s Islamic culture, Diop says that “When Mohammed was born, Arabia 
was a Negro colony with Mecca as its capital.” 10 He adds: “the entire Arab 
people, including the Prophet, is mixed with Negro blood. All educated Arabs 
are conscious of that fact.” 11 Diop even discusses ancient Kemetic practices 
of worship which strangely resemble some major elements of Islamic tradi- 
tions. 12 All these facts compel us to reevaluate the significance of Diop’s 
initial inference that (1) the Moors and Berbers are unequivocally one and the 
same, and (2) these people, Moors/Berbers, are foreign to Africa, and therefore 
non-African. We will come back to Diop later. 

Richard Brace sheds additional light upon the origins of the Moors, and the 
apparent synonymity of the term “Moor” with “Berbers.” Although Brace 
doesn’t specifically say whether he considers “Berber” to be synonymous 
with “Moor,” one can see the correlation when Brace writes: “The Berbers 
came to the Maghrib at least as early as the second millennium B.C., sixteen 
centuries before the Arab conquest ... it is judged that they came from the 
east, perhaps the Red Sea or Egypt , (emphasis mine) possibly further.” 13 
Brace also maintains that their language was “Hamitic” and is related to the 
ancient Egyptian. 14 In discussing the racial/ethnic foundations of Morocco, 
Brace says nothing of “Moors,” preferring to use only the term “Berber.” But 
Brace’s designation of the “Berber” language as “Hamitic,” is most telling, as 
it thereby associates the people with distinctly African origins. 

It is significant to note that the term “Moabitarum” is very frequently used 
by medieval-era European writers to describe the “Moorish” inhabitants of 
northwest Africa or Maure tania. 15 Those who are familiar with both the Ko- 
ran and the Bible would recognize the references “ Mo ab”/“ Moabite.” The 
descendants of Moab, the Moabites, were an ancient people who occupied a 
significant portion of Palestine (See Gen: 36:35 & Exodus 15:15). This item 
will prove to be even more significant as we proceed. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

In discussing the entrance and admixture of Africa’s 7th century invaders 
into the Iberian peninsula, Spanish scholar Enrique Sordo writes: 

The Berbers were no strangers to the peninsula. They formed the largest 
part of the invading force, and much intermarriage rapidly brought about 
a relatively coherent Hispano-Moorish group . 16 

Sordo is clearly implying that the term “Berber” and Moor are always fully 
synonymous, since he makes no reference to the ethnic term Moorish — the 
linguistic root for which the country of Morocco was named, and the land 
from which the “Berbers” entered the Iberian peninsula. But Sordo’s impli- 
cation is something which I am not fully comfortable with, in light of Dr. 
Diop’s contention that “Berbers” evidently have some cultural and “racial” 
connections to Europe. Diop, for example, thinks that the name Aoudaghost 
(a Moroccan city) sounds very Germanic, 17 thereby suggesting some Euro- 
pean connection to the history of northwestern Africa. 

Joseph McCabe was a European- American historian during the 1920’s and 
30’s who spoke very highly of the Moors and their cultural influences upon 
Western civilization and indeed, the world. He stated: 

The story of the Moors and their service to the race (humanity) is so 
large and important, so inadequately recognized by most historians, and 
so wholly concealed by religious writers, that I should like to devote at 
least six of these little volumes to it . 18 

While discussing the ethnicity of the Moors, McCabe writes that: 

the Arabs were settled amongst the Moors (‘Blacks’ — though the Berbers 
of Morocco are merely swarthy whites, not blacks) ... no doubt they 
intermarried with them, so to Europeans they (the Arabs) became known 
as Moors . 19 

Although one might be repelled by McCabe’s seemingly oxymoronic 
reference to “Berbers” as “swarthy whites,” one must again consider the 
reality of several present-day “Berber” designated phenotypes and complex- 
ions, as well as Diop’s revelations of a European connection to those known 
as “Berbers.” However, McCabe submits that the MOORS were (are) “Blacks”/ 
“Negroes” as we see by his placing “Blacks” in quotations and parentheses 
next to MOORS. The picture that appears to be developing regarding the 
relationship between “Berbers” and Moors in the European mind, is one of 
gradations of color, similar to what the U.S. and several European (European 
controlled) societies did with Africans of varying mixtures and phenotypes. 
Terms like “Quadroon,” “Octoroon,” “Mulatto,” “Creole,” & “Mestizo,” all 
remind us of European-American attempts (all too often successful) to divide 
up peoples of African blood/ancestry. The notion of such a Pigmentocracy , as 
my Uncle John often calls it, has evidently been evident in the “scholarship” 


of several European writers on the Moors. It is beginning to appear that 
“Berber” is to “Moor,” what “Mulatto,” “Quadroon” or “Octoroon” were to 
“Negro” in the not-so Old southern United States. 

In discussing the origins of the Moroccan peoples, Brace speaks only of 
“Berbers.” He writes: 

Archaeologists tell us that the Berbers are not an ethnically homogeneous 

race ... scholars agree that they are white, most frequently dark-eyed . 20 

Brace’s use of the term “white” is no doubt based largely upon the lightness 
of some of the Berbers. But I would question the criteria by which the vast 
majority of “Berber” peoples have been designated as “white,” by such 
scholarly agreement. What (& Whose) scholars could agree to this, if the 
“Berbers” are so phenotypically non-homogenous — particularly when we 
consider that the degree of non-homogeneity is so extensive that Brace had to 
bring attention to the fact? Although one must recognize the presence of some 
light-skinned “Berber” peoples in “medieval,” as well as present-day, Morocco 
(& the Maghrib in general), it is extremely necessary to reconsider the 
“racial” categorization of such present-day folk, as well as the appropriateness 
of designating light-skinned contemporary “Berbers,” as the predominant 
phenotype during the cultural zenith of medieval al-Andalus! The peoples of 
present-day Morocco are primarily an amalgam of African, Arab, and Euro- 
pean blood. In assessing all this, let us be mindful of two major facts: (1) 
African blood has dominated in the area for most of the region’s long history 
of human settlement, in spite of the relatively minor settlements which spilled 
over from Visigothic Iberia (which probably explains Audaghost). (2) that the 
influx of any appreciable European people was a relatively recent colonial-era 
event. Now, how would most individuals with such admixtures be classified 
according to the presiding rules of “race” in the U.S. and most European/ 
Eurocentric societies? Before answering this question, let us again review the 
geno-historic foundations of the Arabian people, [see illus. 2] 

We have already noted that the Kushitic origins of the ‘ Arab people and 
how dominant the Africoid phenotype remained from antiquity until the time 
of the Arab Prophet Mohammed. While weighing the scholarship of the 
famed Spanish historian Miguel Asin-Palacios, James T. Monroe too alludes 
to the considerable bio-cultural correlations that existed/exist between Afri- 
can and Arab when he writes: “By indicating this influx of Arabic Philosophy 
into European thought, Asin was in a sense Africanizing Europe. Whether 
Monroe did this intentionally or subconsciously, it displays the degree o 
synonymity (geno-historically) between Africans and Arabs, which even 
European scholars can recognize. 

Diop told us of the miscegenation which took place for many centuries 
between the Kushites and the Jectanides (a light-complexioned Asiatic people), 
which thereby produced the Arabs. 22 Dr. Diop implies, however, that the de- 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 2. This Moroccan girl would commonly be categorized as “Arab” in 
Eurocentric and Arab nationalist circles. Yet, she is described as being part 
of a native “berber” people of Morocco. [Tour book: Morocco] 


gree of intermarriage in Arabia begins to wane and becomes less apparent 
(phenotypically?) by the seventh century; the period of the establishment of 
the Religion of Islam. 23 But I would differ with such an implication. Although 
the famed eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is somewhat dated 
(1911), it offers some insight into the Islamic Arab mentality and society in 
the early 20th century, just prior to its Westernization. Written by a British 
author, it stated: 

Arabia has a considerable free black population and there again by 
inter marriage with the whites around, have filled the land with a mulatto 
breed of every shade till ... a white skin is almost an exception. In Arabia 
no prejudice exists against Negro alliances; no social or political line 
separates the African Trom the Arab. 24 

Even today we can easily see the legacy of such intermarriage. Even Saudi 
Arabia’s present Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, bears 
distinctly Africoid features (dark skin, woolly hair, full lips & a broad nose). 
If the Prince discarded his accent for that of a Harlemite or Philadelphian, he 
would certainly be perceived and accepted on 99% of America’s streets as a 
“Black” American, with or without his Arabic name! With regard to this, I 
think it is imperative that we begin to ask questions such as: (1) What role has 
the western/Eurocentric media played in shaping our perception of history 
and our modern world? Is there actually a desired phenotypic image which the 
News media prefers to show when covering “Middle Eastern” nations? (2) 
Just how deeply have we been SOCIALIZED INTO SEEING? Have our 
perceptions of other “peoples of color” been dictated to us? 

In assessing the question of the Africanity of the Arab, I believe that the 
problem for many of us is one of geography. Arabia is not physically a part of 
the African continent and, therefore, her people are typically regarded as non- 
African, in spite of a long history of a predominant Africoid phenotype. When 
we fully consider the predominant “racial” interpretations of the present-day, 
the differences which exist between “Arab,” “Moor,” and even Berber, is 
primarily one of semantics and culture, not biology. While one might outline 
the differences of culture between the Andalusian African (Moor) and the 
Arabian national, the question of “racial” distinction is far less pronounced. 
Any “racial” confusion that exists is almost certainly the direct (or indirect) 
result of Eurocentric institutions and media. Whether by conscious individual 
choice or the ingrained influences of a prejudiced society, many Western- 
produced texts have deeply obfuscated a historical issue which need not be so 
obscure. The ethnicity/“race” of the people who established Andalus and 
flourished there for nearly 800 years, should not be an area of confusion 
anymore than the “racial” foundation of a place like Mexico. One must 
recognize that Spanish influences (i.e. religion, language, blood, and perhaps 
even worldview) began to affect America physically and culturally from the 



Golden Age of the Moor 

sixteenth century onwards. This assimilation of race and culture ultimately 
culminated in Mexico. The historically conscious individual cannot intelligently 
assert that the glorious ancient Empire of the Azteca was born of Spanish 
culture or Spanish people. Similarly, one could not look at the present 
Mexican President, Salinas, and state that he is the most typical example of 
what the ancient Azteca builders looked like. One must take into account the 
historic reality of miscegenation with post-Columbian Spanish Conquistadors. 

A look at many medieval European representations of “Moors” in art and 
literature, reveals that the Moors had as wide a range of physical appearance 
as do African-Americans today. But when one peruses such books of Heraldry 
as those of Charles A. Fox-Davies and James Fairbairn, with their illustrations 
of “Moors,” 25 it becomes evident that the standard for a Moor was most often 
very dark skin and woolly hair. For another major example, we need only to 
observe the words of Shakespeare’s villainous Iago. Iago, the literary creation 
of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan mind, says crudely to Othello’s Father-in-law: 
“Even now, now, very now, an old Black ram is tupping (copulating with) 
your white ewe.” (Act I, Scene I). Even Roderigo, a Venetian, refers to 
Othello “the Moor” as “thick-lips” in the same scene. 26 Clearly, what a MOOR 
phenotypically represented for English society in the early 1600’s had a 
correlation with today’s so-called “Blacks.” What group has been so despised 
throughout European-dominated history for their full lips? Without a doubt, 
Africans. We can also see another stereotypical reaction of Europeans 
toward “Blacks,” with regard to marriage or intimacy between European 
women and African men. (In spite of this revulsion, a powerful contrary 
attraction exists, as the history of intimacies between European men and 
African women attest). 

In evaluating how the predominantly Africoid type in North Africa gave 
way to an amalgam of phenotypes, many of a Euro-African cast, we must 
consider the systematic, almost genocidal, destruction of many African peoples. 
Let us remember that, after the defeat of the Moors in Europe, the most 
distinctly Africoid types would have been the primary target of Europe’s 
wrath and that the rationale for this may have been as much a consequence of 
the psycho-racial neuroses discussed in Frances Cress Welsing’s theories, 27 
as in simple material greed. 

Perhaps, to the average European mind, the “blackest” Africans represented 
pale-skinned Europe’s genetic inversion and nemesis. Consequently, such 
Blacks had to be systematically suppressed or annihilated. I would assert that 
the reality of European military domination and hegemony, coupled with its 
pigmentocratic worldview of “light superiority,” compelled North African 
societies into placing a premium upon lightness of skin. The closer to the 
European phenotype, the better. The same pathologies which Africans in 
America developed, regarding preferences for light-skinned mates and offspring 
(in order to “lighten the race”), dominated the colonized peoples of North 



Figure 3. From Alfonso X’s 13th century text, Las Cantigas CLXXXV, this 
comic-strip like illustration shows a Catholic Lady seducing a Moor into a 
trap. She lures the Moor with an invitation to her daughter-in-law’s bed, only 
to turn the couple in to her son and the authorities. The Moor is burned alive 
and the daughter is spared by the “Virgin Mary.” 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Africa. But, in spite of all this, many of the original so-called “Berbers” of 
Morocco, who resemble distinctly Africoid/“BIack” peoples, still survive. 
Shortly, we will see the grounds upon which European scholars have aca- 
demically justified the use of the term “Berber.” 

In discussing the impact of one of Moorish Spain’s two most significant 
African Dynasties — the Almoravids, British medievalist, De Lacy O’Leary, 
tells us that the dynasty’s primary founder, Yahya Ibrahim, was “of a great 
Berber tribe of Latuna ... ONE of THOSE LIGHT-COMPLEXIONED 
BERBER RACES [emphasis mine] such as can still be seen in Algeria, and 
are apparently nearest akin to the Lebu, as they are represented in ancient 
Egyptian paintings. 28 

O’Leary’s statement clearly implies that there were (are) dark-complexioned 
(“Black”) Berbers! The fact that this Irish historian, writing in 1922, would 
feel it necessary to qualify descriptively just what (pheno-) type of a “Berber” 
Yahya Ibrahim was, strongly suggests that O’Leary was seeking to exclude 
contemporary “Negroes” (often rumored to be racially connected with the 
Moors/“Berbers”) from any correlation to the great Moors of the medieval 
period. Interestingly, O’Leary does mention one of the most significant of the 
Almoravids, Yusuf Ibn Tashifin , the ruler who succeeded Yahya and expanded 
the dynasty’s dominion in Africa and Iberia. 29 Even the most anti-“BIack” 
scholar could not deny the importance of Tashifin, or attempt to portray him 
as racially “white” (fair-complexioned “Berber”), as Tashifin ’s historical 
significance and distinct African features are too well documented in such 
Arabic sources as Roudh el-Kartos . 30 Consequently, O’Leary chooses to re- 
main strangely silent on the issue of a physical description of Tashifin and his 
fellow “Berbers,” although he does inform us of how Tashifin extended 
Almoravid-“Berber” dominion “from the Mediterranean to the Senegal,” and 
that the “Berber” Tashifin was a “Murabit” Prince. 31 

A Moroccan friend of mine who specializes in Linguistics, Professor Aziz 
Lotfi, presented me with some rather interesting information pertaining to the 
“Berbers” of North Africa and their origins. Professor Lotfi, who teaches at a 
Moroccan university, pointed out that Western scholarship has primarily 
defined the “Berbers” on linguistic grounds only, while consciously or un- 
consciously ignoring the ethnic/racial diversity of the “Berber”-speaking 
community. 32 Citing The World's Major Languages , edited by B. Comries, 
Lotfi also points out that many of the “Berber” languages exhibit Kemetic, 
Kushitic, and Semitic origins, as revealed in their morphology, phonetics and 
word-orders. 33 Although some “Berbers” have been linked to Celtic and 
Nordic origins by a number of French writers of the colonial period, Lotfi 
demonstrates that the probability of “Berber” origins are more likely East 
African and Kushitic. He offers the following observations: 

1) The Dra Valley of southern Morocco is largely regarded as having been 
inhabited long before the first Canaanite settlement of the 10th century B.C., 


by a Cushitic people whose descendants, the Haratins, represent one of the 
largest “Berber” speaking ethnic groups in Morocco. 

2) Several Moroccan family names: Koush, Kouash, and Kashani, for 
example, all denote Kushitic/Ethiopian origins. (I might add that this also 
evidently explains the origin of the popular north African food “Cous-Cous ” 
whose name evidently suggests an Ethiopian origin). 

3) A prominent village, Misra, near the city of Fez, illustrates a connection 
to eastern Africa, as “Misra” (Misraim) is the name given to Egypt/Kemet by 
the Ethiopians/Kushites. 

Not only do Prof. Lotfi ’s findings support my contentions about the syn- 
onymity between “Berber” and Moor (let us not forget that “Moor” even 
etymologically designates an Africoid phenotype), but a fascinating correla- 
tion is made between the Moors and ancient Kemites. This is something 
which will be expanded upon later. 

Perhaps one of the most revealing observations of Prof. Lotfi was when he 
informed me that there is no Berber-speaking community in Morocco today, 
which identifies itself by any name or term which is “even distantly related, 
phonetically or morphologically, to the term “Berber.” This is a “foreign” 
designation for what was mainly a “native” people. 

Close historical inquiry and historiographical analysis reveal the “racial” 
relationship between the Black African of the eighth century (century of the 
Moorish invasion) and the historical Moor (the so-called “Berber”) who 
entered the Iberian peninsula and profoundly influenced Europe. A look at 
any number of Europe’s books of Heraldry (i.e. Fox Davies) or even the 
coats-of-arms revealed within the books of the late great J. A. Rogers, provides 
the pictorial evidence of what many a Moor was. Why do European scholars 
who discuss North African ethnic origins fail to address the question of why 
Morocco is called MOROCCO, or why Mauretania is called MA URETAN1 A? 
How can one single out a much later citizen of Morocco, now mixed with 
other races, and present him or her as a classic example of the phenotype 
which dominated in “medieval” times, during the Moorish occupation of 

Before closing this section, let us look at a few more references an 
observations which European writers made regarding the Moors who entere 
Andalus, as many of their comments are quite revealing. 

The 16th century European chronicler John Pory, said of the western 
Sudan: “This part of the worlde is inhabited especially by the Africans or 
Moores, properly so called; which last are of two kinds, namely white or 
tawnie Moores, and Negroes or blacke Moores.” 35 From this quote we learn 
two primary things: (1) a considerable number of the African peoples of the 
western Sudan “properly” referred to themselves as “Moores” — regardless o 
whether they were light or dark in complexion. We can safely say it was 
clearly a general reference which they used (& accepted) when categorizing 



Golden Age of the Moor 

themselves. (2) John Pory, this especially pigment-conscious 16th cent. Eu- 
ropean, chose to divide the Moores up into “blackes”/“Negros” and “whites”/ 
“tawnie” — in spite of the “proper” reference which these Africans had holisti- 
cally accepted for themselves: MOORES! Again, I think of U.S. history, and 
the Euro-American divisions of African/Africoid people which makes clear 
distinctions between “mulatto” and “negro.” 

A European Catholic Priest’s account about the Moorish invasion of 710, 
written in 754, makes clear that the Catholic Europeans of this early era 
recognized a difference between the Moor and the Arab. But again, it is my 
impression that this difference was probably noted in cultural manifestations 
(i.e. language, dress, manner), and not ordinarily in phenotype/“race.” Taken 
from the “Continuatio Isidoriana Hispana ad annum 754,” it read: 

Nam adgregata copia exercitus adversus Arabes una cum Mauros a 
Muze missos, id est Taric Abuzaara et ceteros diu sibi provinciam credit 
am incursantibus simulque et plerasque civitates devastantibus./trans: He 
gathered the full strength of his army to face the Arabs together with the 
Moors sent by Musa [Musa ibn Nusayr, Governor of the Maghrib in 710 
during the Moorish conquest of Iberia], that is Tariq ibn Ziyad [Governor 
of Tangier in 710, and second in command of the invasion] and the others 
who had for long been raiding the province assigned to him and despoiling 
many cities. 36 

While discussing the illustrious Moorish conqueror Tariq and his 710 
invasion, the “Chronicle of Alfonso III of Asturias (866-910),” clearly sug- 
gests some kind of synonymity between the Moors and Chaldeans. Within 
this document from 883, Alfonso III (a.k.a. “scientia clarus” — “famous in 
learning”) writes: “Qui dum Asturias peruenissent uolentes eum fraudulenter 
conprendere, in uico cui nomen erat Brece, per quendam amicum Pelagium 
manifestum est consilio Caldeorum.’Vtrans.: “When they [Tariq’s soldiers] 
reached Asturias intending to take him [Pelayo, a Catholic Monarch] by 
trickery, in a village called Brece, Pelayo was told of the Chaldean’s plot by a 
friend.” 37 While it is possible that this reference was meant to be allegorical, it 
is also quite possible that this text actually illustrates that the Europeans of the 
medieval period were well aware of the “racial” (& historical?) connections 
between Africa’s Moors and the ancient civilization of the Chaldeans. This 
latter possibility should at least be considered — particularly since there is 
historical evidence to support such a contention. 

As we proceed with the following sections, let us keep in mind that any 
references made to “Moors,” “Berbers,” and even “Arabs,” by western histo- 
ries, should largely be perceived as equivalent terms for all of Andalusia’s 
predominantly African/Africoid populace (“peoples of color”). For, in spite 
of some medieval-era descriptives of Caucasoid Muslim & Christian person- 
ages, the bulk of the Andalusian society was most evidently African/Africoid. 
As we shall see, most histories assert that the largest newcomers to Andalus 


were the so-called “Berbers,” more accurately Moors from Africa’s north- 
western Sudanic region. The fact that this medieval country is most often 
remembered as “MOORish,” as well as the earlier discussion regarding the 
ethnicity of Iberia’s Muslim newcomers, should validate this contention. 

Social & Educational Realities of Andalus: 

Historian Joseph O’Callaghan affirms that, “Probably no more than 18,000 
Arabs entered the peninsula in the first wave of invasion; thereafter relatives 
and dependents of the Umayyads [the ruling dynasty based in Baghdad] 
settled in al-Andalus, but the number of Arabs did not increase appreciably.” 
He continues, “The Berbers were the most numerous of all newcomers to the 
Peninsula. About 12,060 crossed the straits with Tariq, but there was a steady 
influx from Morocco during the centuries of Muslim predominance.” 38 It would 
not be until the eleventh century however, that the “Berbers” would become 
the most influential political group in al-Andalus. 39 O’Callaghan also makes 
the point that the cultural and scientific impact upon the Iberian peninsula by 
the first Muslim settlers was not very significant. These Moors, Arabs, and 
even Persians, were preoccupied the first hundred years of so fighting Catholic 
armies (and even factions within their own ranks). But by the tenth century, 
Iberian-based Muslims began returning from Africa and Asia with the latest 
scientific and philosophical doctrines. 40 

The ninth century had already witnessed the outnumbering of Christians by 
Muslims and Jews. 41 For the most part, Andalusia’s Muslims were Sunnis 
who believed in the election of the Caliph (ruler). 42 Initially, the Muslim 
peoples were concentrated within the southern region of Andalus as far north 
as Toledo. The area above Toledo was mostly a no-man’s-land with only a 
few Moorish settlers. Within the country a variety of berber and arabic 
dialects were spoken. But by the ninth century, Muslim expansion, complete 
with the peasantry’s large scale conversion to Islam, had resulted in the 
domination of the Arabic language. One ninth-century Spanish Catho ic 

“Alas! All talented young men know only the language and literature 

of the Arabs and read and assiduously study the Arab books. If some o y 

speaks of Christian books they contemptuously answer that they eserve 
no attention whatever. Woe! The Christians have forgotten their own 
language, and there is hardly one among a thousand to be foun w o can 
write a friend a decent greeting in Latin.” 43 

The Maghrib had received Arabic Islam during the period between 641 
(Arab conquest of Egypt) and about 700 A.D. 44 Andalusia s Moors ha come 
into the country with a very religiously tolerant philosophy. Althoug t ese 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Muslim people conquered and controlled al-Andalus, they allowed the Jews 
and Catholics to continue practicing their respective faiths. In assessing the 
treatment of Jews under Muslim control, O’Leary states that their prosperity 
continued and increased under Moorish rule. Very often they held high court 
positions and civil service jobs. O’Leary says that the Murabit (Moorish) 
rulers “took no measures against Christians or Jews.” 45 The Christians and Jews 
suffered almost no persecution at the hands of the Muslims. The Muslims, 
however, fared very poorly under Christian domination. 

In contrast, McCabe comments upon some of the more extreme examples 
of Catholic/Christian intolerance. He mentions the “burning alive of women 
and youth, and the tearing open of the bellies of accused heretics before 
‘delighted crowds’ ” in the Christian West. 46 In his writings McCabe clearly 
implies that Moorish atrocities rarely — if ever — rivalled those of the Catholics. 
Needless to say, the Moorish occupation of Iberia/Hispania is considered by 
most evaluative histories as vastly more civilized and industrious than the 
country had been under the Visigoths and Vandals (two Germanic tribes). 
Vives tells us that “the Hispani provinces were barbarically devastated by the 
Franks and Suevi [European tribes], their principal cities sacked and de- 
stroyed, the countryside razed without mercy.” 47 Several histories record that 
the entrance of the Moors in 710, was welcomed by most of the Iberian 
peasant classes and Jews, who had been brutally subjugated by the Visigothic 
oligarchy. S.S. Imamuddin’s work: Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and 
Cultural History of Muslim Spain: 711—1492 supports this thesis. 

Brace maintains that “Arab imperialism was not based upon racial su- 
premacy. It entered by force and impressed its culture because it appreciated 
what it found and did not fear that its ideas would become diluted by blood 
ties.” 48 Tolerance was very much the creed of Moorish Spain. Conversion to 
Islam was not forced. Few Jews converted to Islam as they enjoyed freedom 
of worship and the right to live by their own customs and laws. The Chief 
Rabbi had complete jurisdiction over the Jewish community. As a result, the 
Jews prospered in various trades and they “were particularly active in the 
slave trade,” writes O’Callaghan. It wasn’t until the coming of the Almoravids 
in the eleventh century, that the Jews endured any notable persecution and 
began fleeing into the Christian dominions of Andalus as well as other Islamic 
lands. 49 One could wonder if Jewish persecution under the Almoravids had 
something to do with the considerable Jewish involvement in the enslavement 
trade. Still, the Jewish presence in Andalus is exemplified by uninterrupted 
prosperity for most of the 700 or so years of Moorish control. We might also 
note that it was only a generation after the Almoravids, with Andalus now 
under African Almohade control, that perhaps the greatest of Jewish phi- 
losophers, Moses Ben Maimon (“Maimonides”), rose to great prominence. 

The constant warfare between Andalusian Muslims and Christian kingdoms 
had kept the slave trade alive in the Mediterranean. O’Callaghan tells us that: 



“Negroes from the Sudan,” and European slaves (saqaliba) Franks, Slavs, 
Germans, Norsemen and others filled the ranks of servitude. He points out 
very quickly, however, that Islam’s brand of slavery cannot be compared with 
the more dehumanizing kind practiced by the Christian Europeans. In reference 
to Islamic slaves O’Callaghan writes, “Owners did not possess the power of 
life and death over them, nor could they inflict excessive punishments .” 50 
Slaves had rights and they could actually seek official assistance if they were 
exceedingly mal-treated. Any student of American history knows that this 
was far from the case regarding the British and U.S. system of Enslavement. 
The enslaved African was a non-human, legally designated as “property.” 
Whoever it was that said “All human slavery has been precisely the same,” is 
simply speaking from a position of extreme historical and cultural ignorance. 

I feel that I must take a moment to comment upon the significance of 
O’Callaghan’s use of the word “Negroes” when speaking of those slaves who 
were imported from the Sudan. Why does he not simply refer to them as 
“Sudanese?” After all, he is very careful about giving the nationality of all the 
European slaves. Whether Mr. O’Callaghan’s statement was intentional or 
merely a conditioned response, it only feeds the process of historically 
denying phenotypically black-skinned Africans of a national origin. 

In assessing the social mobility of al-Andalus, historian Anwar Che] ne 
declares, “It should be emphasized that Andalusian society was flexible and 
open. A man of humble station, whether Muslim or non-Muslim could climb 
the social ladder and occupy any high position except that of supreme ru er. 

In contrast, the famed Arabist, Stanley Lane-Pool e, criticized the elitist and 
powerful Christian clergy of Visigothic Iberia. He said. The very c gy 
preached about the brotherhood of Christians ... treated their slaves and serfs 

as badly as any Roman noble .” 52 ^ were 

A number of the laws invoked by Chnstian/Catho ic au hg 

unjustly harsh. O’Callaghan gives an example of the Usages w g 
Catholic sovereign the specified right to cut off hands an e , P thej ’ 

imprison, and hang. Regarding women offenders, t e ru Alfonso VII 

noses, ears, lips and breasts. Spanish Catholic monarchs like 

punished criminals by lopping off their hands and eet an y ^ jj 

Alfonso IX traditionally had thieves hanged, drowned or boded 

crimes including homicide and rape, could be pardone , y P coima). 

arch a specific sum of money called the calumnia (a so own kingdom. 

O'Callaghan says .ha, His was an 

In comparison, Islamic law was based upon the Koran P harsher 

had to be equivalent to the crime. A thief might lose his a ^ ^Y ^ ^ 
punishment was seen by society as a grave viola 10 crime particu- 

same token, a criminal could not legally buy his way ou expected to 

larly in cases involving murder and rape. A Mus 1m ru e ^ g ut re g ar dless 
consult the men of the law before he offered any ju gem 


Golden Age of the Moor 



of whether the Muslims agreed with the Catholic practices or not, even in 
Muslim-ruled kingdoms the Christians were left to conduct their own affairs 
as they saw fit, so long as a Muslim was not involved. 

The Mozarabs were Catholics who had adopted the social customs of the 
Moors and Arabs, including the use of the Arabic language. They were very 
interested in the Moorish culture and were able to partake of it freely, while 
maintaining their Christian faith. As a result, the Mozarabs have often been 
depicted by Western scholars as possessing a strong allegiance to Catholicism 
and its cause. But Vives offers another view of the Mozarabs. He informs us 
that one of Emperor Charlemagne’s major objectives was to annihilate the 
Moorish frontier by taking Saragossa, which was an important Mozarab 
redoubt. However, in 778, the Catholic offensive failed because the Mozarabs 
refused to cooperate with the Catholic Emperor. Vives concedes that the 
Mozarabs were primarily a “self-absorbed” group. 54 They understood that they 
could gain a great deal by remaining in close quarters with the Moors. Like 
the Jews, the Mozarabs were entitled to their own legal system complete with 
their own magistrate and own laws. Again, only in cases involving Muslims 
would a Muslim court have jurisdiction. 55 

One of the most interesting results of Christian Spain’s meeting with 
Moorish Islam was the revival of a theological theory called “Adoptionism.” 
This theory was maintained by Felix, bishop of Urgel, and Elipandus, the 
metropolitan of Toledo. In attempting to refute the Muslims’ criticism of the 
Christian Trinity, these clerics declared that Christ was adopted by God “the 
Father” and thereby became the “Son of God.” Such assertions were consid- 
ered heretical by Pope Hadrian I, Charlemagne, and several other Catholic 
officials. 56 These Catholic leaders apparently realized that “Adoptionism” 
was entirely too similar to the Islamic belief held by the Moors: that Jesus “the 
Christ” was a mortal Prophet, appointed for his Divine Mission by the Uni- 
versal Father-God (Allah). Clearly, the Church could not allow such blas- 
phemous syncretism to exist unchallenged. But, in spite of the accusations of 
heresy, Felix and Elipandus continued to espouse “Adoptionism” until their 
deaths in the early years of the ninth century. 57 

Within the first three centuries of Moorish rule, the vast majority of the 
peasants who had been living south of the Duero river, in the western region 
of the peninsula, and almost all of the peasants living south of the Pyrennees 
in the eastern region, had converted to Islam. This phenomenon would prove 
very significant in the future with the advent of Catholic reconquest and the 
assimilation of the “Moriscos” (designation for Moors under Catholic domi- 
nation) into Christian Spain. 58 By the tenth century, Islam was very much 
ingrained within the network of this formerly Catholic Hispani-Visigothic 
society, and Islam became the religion of the majority. Muslims of European 
as well as Moorish (and Arab) blood, could enjoy the privileges and respon- 
sibilities of residing within an Islamic state. Zakat (almsgiving) was obliga- 

tory and these taxes went towards supporting the state and its social programs. 
All Muslims in Andalus were required to pay a levy of ten percent to the state 
on all their capital goods, i.e. animals, merchandise, gold, and silver. Muslims 
also paid a land tax ( ushr ) of between ten and twenty percent. Jewish and 
Christian freemen under Muslim rule were required to pay a monthly tributary 
sum for military protection ( jizya ). But women, children, the physically 
handicapped, the elderly, slaves, beggars and monks were all tax exempt. 59 
Hospitals ( bimaristan ) were established in the majority of Andalusian cities. 
They were equipped with baths and running water, and they were divided into 
various wings for different ailments. The bimaristans were open to both 
Muslims and non-Muslims, twenty four hours a day, regardless of the patients’ 
ability to pay. Drugs and food were always available and the Muslim physicians 
were knowledgeable irf such things as blood circulation, measles, and small- 
pox. 60 

Moorish society enjoyed such recreations as horse racing, marksmanship, 
polo, backgammon, chess and musical concerts. Literary salons ( majalis ) were 
also attended by the learned and the ruling class in general. 61 Public baths were 
available, and they were open exclusively for women in the morning (men 
went at noon). In his essay “Baths and Caravanserais in Crusader Valencia,” 
Robert I. Burns informs us: “ ... for Muslims in general they (the Baths) held 
an echo of Koranic precepts on washing ... an essential element of social 
life.” 62 In great contrast with the Moorish regard for bathing and hygiene, was 
the contempt which most of western Europe had for bathing and physical 
cleanliness. Burckhardt confirms, like a number of other historians of Andalus, 
that the contempt which Catholics had for Moorish precepts about bathing, 
manifested itself in the deliberate destruction of the Moorish baths by Catho- 
lic Conquistadores. 63 The English historian, Charles H. Haskins, also speaks 
of the contempt which the vast majority of Catholic Europeans a or 
bathing, especially on Sunday. 64 For more information on this matter, I would 
direct the reader to Terence McLaughlin’s historical study. Dirt. ocia 

History As Seen Through The Uses and Abuses of Dirt. 

In Andalus, women moved freely in public and engaged in various ga er 
ings. The practice of purdah (requirement that women cover t eir aces 
public, etc.) was almost entirely ignored. Moorish Andalus was unique am0 
Islamic nations. It could easily be argued that women enjoyed m° re socieia 
freedoms in al-Andalus than in any other part of the Islamic wor . 
Walladah, the daughter of the twelfth century Caliph al-Mustakfi, ha a tm 
disregard for the veil. Walladah also distinguished herself as a tamed po . 

The poetry of the Moors had a profound effect upon Christian pain an 
of western Europe. Chejne informs us that the scholarship of Ny , i us r 
“the striking similarities between the zajal and Provencal poetry 'in o ° 
important aspects: The rhyme aaab in Ibn Quzman’s poems an t ° se 0 
Provencal noets are similar: the Arabic “markaz” or “matla” (estnbi o m p-J 



Golden Age of the Moor Pimienta-Bey 

corresponds to th efinada or Provencal poems; “the number of strophes, ordi- 
narily five to nine, is a common feature of both Arabic and Provencal 
compositions.” 66 The use of a messenger between two lovers, duties of a lover 
and the general theme also point to a borrowing of Moorish/Arabic composi- 
tion.” 67 Titus Burckhardt too contends that the very concept of “Chivalric 
Love” is born of Moorish influences. He informs us that even the famed 
Alfonso X (“the Wise”) composed his cantigas to the Virgin Mary, using the 
Moorish zajal as his model. Burckhardt also points out that: 

Moorish culture exercised a strong influence on neighboring Southern 
France, and the first known (European) poet of courtly love to write in 
vulgar Latin, Prince William of Aquitaine, is almost certain to have 
spoken Arabic , 68 

McCabe writes of the abundant gardens of Andalus, and he likens them 
unto an earthly Paradise. 69 No doubt this “Paradise” was made even more 
heavenly by the presence of latrines with running water. This surprising 
innovation made its appearance in the cities of Muslim Spain sometime 
before the tenth century, while the rest of western Europe would not know its 
benefits for several centuries to come. 70 Andalusian cities even had streets, 
“paved, lighted (sic), and finely drained by the middle of the tenth century,” 
writes McCabe. 71 He compares these illustrious Andalusian cities with those 
of Paris and London some six centuries later. McCable says of sixteenth 
century Paris and London: “Foul and contaminated water trickled along, or 
lay in stagnant pools, on the unpaved streets ... ” 72 Andalusia even had a 
postal service, and her major roads were dotted with the necessary stables of 
swift horses. 73 

The extent, quality and impact of Moorish and Arab influence upon Euro- 
pean development can be seen in the words of various European languages 
which derived from the Arabic. Chejne informs us, “English has many words 
of common usage — such as coffee, sugar, rice, lemon, syrup, soda, alcohol, 
alkali, cypher, algebra, arsenal, admiral, alcove, and magazine — which have 
relevance to human endeavor in the arts and crafts.” 74 When one remembers 
that the Islamic empire stretched from Indonesia in the East to the Atlantic in 
the West (including portions of India, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, and 
of course much of Africa and the “Holy Land”), it is easy to see how Muslim 
influences could become so firmly planted within European/“Western” cul- 
ture. 75 Sicily was even dominated by Moors and Arabs for over two hundred 
years, and Crete was ruled by them for one hundred and twenty-five. At its 
peak, the Muslim empire was even more immense than those of either 
Alexander the Macedonian (“the Great”) or Rome at its height. 76 It would only 
be natural for the culture of the Andalusian Moors to have had a very 
extensive influence upon western European civilization, as this gifted Afri- 
can/Asiatic society was geographically based on European soil and was 
readily available to Christian European immigrants. 

Agricultural Improvements: 

The Moors and other Islamic peoples of Andalus, introduced new kinds of 
horticultural methods and types of plants, fruits and vegetables, which were 
virtually unknown outside of Africa and Persia. 77 From Africa and Asia came 
rice (“arruz” in Arabic, “arroz” in Span., “riz” in Fr.). It appeared on Spanish 
river banks in the tenth century according to the records of Arib bin Sa’id, 
secretary to the ruler al-Hakem II (961-976). 78 Cotton had been introduced to 
Iberian soil in the ninth century (qutn - Ar., algodon - Sp., coton - Fr.). On 
Andalusian soil, the Moors also grew several types of medicinal herbs (i.e. 
“dardar” or ash trees) from Africa. They were grown abundantly in Spanish 
regions like: Selba, Elvira, Shulayr, (Sierra Nevada) and Guadix. This enter- 
prise was obviously tied to their medical and pharmacological skill and 
interests. The quality of the herbs was said to rival those grown in India and 
other Eastern countries. 79 

Andalusian botanists such as Ibn al-Wafid, Ibn Bassal, Ibn al-Hajjaj and 
Ibn al-Awwan conducted special studies on the productivity and quality of the 
land. Ibn Bassal partitioned the land into ten different classes according to 
particular characteristics, and taught farmers ways of increasing the fertility 
of their plots. 80 Geological studies were done in order to locate sweet water 
below the earth’s surface. Wide spread use was made of the water-wheel or 
“na’urah,” which the Romans knew about but had utilized very little. The 
Moors dug canals and channels which irrigated farm lands and provided water 
for several thousand mosques, palaces and public baths. 81 Some of the most 
highly productive lands were at Saragossa, Merida, Tudela, Murcia (Tudmir), 
Elvira, Malaga, Lorca, and Baghah. 82 

Studies of the Iberian soil along with the Moorish introduction of new 
methods, plants, tools and manures, helped to dramatically increase the 
fertility of the Iberian land. The astrolabe was even employed by the Moors in 
leveling the land for easier irrigation. 83 But not only did Andalusia s Muslims 
increase the productivity of the soil and introduce new vegetation, they also 
ushered in the science of food preservation and storage. At Saragossa, wheat 
was preserved for as long as one hundred years. Moorish methods of preser- 
vation and drying enabled such fruits as figs, plums, cherries and apples to 
remain edible for several years. Ibn al-Awwan (12th cent.) was a botanist w o 
wrote in great detail about the process for preserving olive oil, corn an 
various fruits. 84 

Before turning to the main focus of this essay, it is necessary to say a bit 
about what I consider to be the two most significant dynasties which entere 
Andalus. What makes these Dynasties especially significant, is that they were 
most certainly African, and that they both had a great and positive impact 
upon the sciences and philosophies of Andalusian society. These two Dynas- 
ties, the Almoravids and th t Almohades, left very indelible impressions upon 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Spain, and ultimately, western European society and development. O’Callaghan 
refers to the eleventh century and Almoravid control as the “Golden Age” for 
al-Andalus. For although the Almoravids (and Almohades) are sometimes 
regarded as theologically conservative, the intellectual and artistic activity of 
the country did not depreciate as a result. In fact, the fields of philosophy and 
science were particularly rejuvenated during the time of these dynasties. In 
addition, Catholics and Muslims would mix even more freely in such Moorish 
controlled cities as Toledo, Saragossa, Tortosa and Lisbon. Unfortunately for 
the Moors, it would also be during this period (11th cent.) that the Hispano- 
Visigothic Catholics would secure military control over several Moorish 
cities of erudition, and establish their first center for the translation of Moorish 
texts at Toledo. 85 

The Almoravids had originated in the deserts of northwest Africa. Wayne 
Chandler states that ethnic and religious feuds in northern Africa had pushed 
many “Berbers” deep into the southern desert. There they encountered a more 
unmixed African people with whom they then intermarried. The fusion of the 
two peoples produced the Almoravids and their Mobt-Themirt (wearers of the 
Veil) who earned a reputation for being fiercely skilled soldiers. The old 
Moorish work, Roudh-el-Kartos, discusses the entry of the Almoravids into 
Andalus, and it describes the Almoravid leader Yusuf Ibn Tashifin, as a 
black -skinned African. Yusuf had entered al-Andalus upon the request of 
Seville’s Muslim governor Al-Mutammed, in 1086. Yusuf’s invading armies 
consisted of various ethnic groups/“tribes” from western Africa. 86 After Yusuf 
and his men entered al-Andalus, it is said that he became angered by the 
general indolence of the Muslim leadership, and lack of military support 
given by the presiding Muslim rulers. Yusuf was concerned with the rising 
military power of the Catholic armies. Consequently, he decided to take 
control of the country himself, and he appointed his own followers as gover- 
nors. Yusuf successfully pushed Alfonso VI and his Catholic army out of the 
Muslim territories that Alfonso had won. 87 

With regard to the earlier discussion concerning Moorish ethnology, it is 
interesting to point out that a Spanish synonym for Almoravid is Moabita, 88 
which again draws our attention to the Biblical people, and the evident 
phenotypic (and historic?) correlation which the medieval Europeans made 
between the ancient people of the Bible and the Almoravid Africans. We 
might also recall another synonym for Almoravid: Murabit or Marabout 
which phonetically corresponds to Moabite/Moabitarum. 

The Almohads assumed control of al-Andalus after a little more than a 
century of Almoravid domination. Henry Coppee refers to the Almohades as 
pure Africans” in contrast to the Almoravids, whose blood was (from 
Coppee’s viewpoint) more mixed with the Arabs. 89 Like the Almoravids, the 
Almohades also hailed from the western part of Africa, 96 an area which in- 
cludes the peoples of Ghana, Mali, Senegal, and Songhay. O’Callaghan 


indicates that the Almohades displayed a particular interest in philosophy 
The Almohade rulers encouraged scholarly debates between the Averroist- 
Aristotelians and more orthodox Islamic theologians such as al-Ghazzali 
(Algazel, as Europeans called him). 91 French historian Francois L. Ganshof 
also confirms the considerable love of intellectual pursuits exhibited under 
Almohade rule. Ganshof says that the Almohades encouraged non-theological 
pursuits and sought a more secular approach to knowledge. Ganshof writes 
that under the Almohades there was a greater emphasis upon those “intellec- 
tual activities that were not oriented toward theology.” He goes on to remind 
the reader that it was under this dynasty that perhaps the greatest Moorish 
Andalusian thinkers flourished, 92 represented by men such as “Averroes” 
who will be discussed shortly. 

Educational Realities & Intellectual Achievement: 

Ibn Ghabib, a late ninth century scholar of Moorish Spain, referred to the 
Andalusians as “good managers, seekers of knowledge, and lovers of wisdom, 
philosophy, justice and fair play.” 93 Chejne too comments upon the Andalusian 
Muslim’s high regard for education and knowledge when he states: “Its 
pursuance and dissemination were conceived to represent the highest attainment 
in this world and in the Hereafter ... it was tantamount to an article of faith.” 94 
Andalusian bookshops were the meeting places for leading scholars and 
laymen; spirited discussions were conducted on almost every conceivable 
subject. Chejne continues: “Scholars, rulers, and notables had salons or 
literary clubs in their homes which were attended by select people. Literary 
debates pertaining to grammar, lexicography, poetry, religion, law and other 
topics took place.” 95 Andalus was filled with many schools, known as 
madrasas, which taught all of the sciences and philosophies of the period. 
There were also major Moorish universities such as at Cordova, which was 
founded in the tenth century by the Caliph AM al-Rahman III. The University 
of Cordova thereby prompted the emergence of additional schools an uni 
versities in other provincial towns such as Seville, Malaga, Valencia an 
Almeria. Students from far and near attended these institutions. One ccm 
temporary chronicler named Ibne-Idhari, tells of twenty-seven free sc oo s 
of higher education existing in Cordova alone. 97 The Andalusian us ini is 
devout interest in knowledge bore much fruit in the various sciences. e 
overall mathematical contributions of the Arabic peoples is summarize y 
Carra de Vaux, who said: 

The Arabs have really achieved great things in science; they taught the 
use of ciphers, although they did not invent them, and thus became e 
founders of the arithmetic of everyday life; they made algebra an exac 
science and developed it considerably and laid the foundation o ana y ica 
geometry; they were indisputably the founders of plane and sp erica 


Golden Age of the Moor 

trigonometry which, properly speaking, did not exist among the Greeks . 98 

Fortunately for the Christian European, this sort of knowledge which was so 
common to Moorish Andalus, would eventually make its way throughout 
Christian European societies. 

The Andalusian Muslim resided within a society which espoused the great 
importance and sanctity of knowledge. Such eminent Islamic scholars as the 
tenth century belletrist Ibn Abd Rabbihi, wrote texts on education and its 
importance. This Eastern scholar defined education and knowledge as “the 
pillars upon which rest the axis of religion and the world.” He continues: 

They [education & knowledge] distinguished man from the beast, and the 
rational from the irrational being. They are the substance of the intellect, 
the lantern of the body, the light of the heart, and the pole of the soul ...’ 

Indeed the intelligent person who is not taught anything is like not having 
intellect at all. And if a child were not educated and taught to read and 
write he would be the most stupid of animals ..." 

The typical Andalusian’s regard for such an outlook as Rabbihi ’s was quite 
clear. Imamuddin tells us, “The collection of books was not exclusively a 
royal hobby, but a passion with the people in general .” 100 
The Andalusian Moor’s great respect for academic pursuits was noted far 
beyond the physical borders of the country. The technical terms for the 
astrolabe (an astronomical device invented by the Moors/Arabs) and the 
names of stars, still retain their Arabic origins even in the West. As we shall 
see a little later, it was also during the twelfth century, that Europeans would 
exhibit their greatest interest in Muslim learning. Foreign students from the 
continents of Asia, Africa and Europe would flood into al-Andalus . 101 West- 
ern European thinkers such as Adelard of Bath, Plato of Tivoli, Robert of 
Chester and many others, resided among the Moors, with the intention of 
learning from them. Catholic Andalusians like Dominicus Gondisalvi and 
Hugh Santalla, and Jews like Abraham ben Ezra, represent just a few of the 
countless Europeans who were educated at Islamic institutions in Moorish 
Spain . 102 

Chejne states that the Eastern countries of Islam (i.e. Egypt, Persia, Arabia 
& Syria) remained a source of inspiration and even guidance in all endeavors, 
until about the middle of the eleventh century. [Interestingly, this coincides 
with the Almoravid arrival]. Andalusian standards had been judged according 
to their comparison with those of the East. Consequently, the Andalusian 
Moors sought to exceed the standards of their Eastern counterparts in all 
areas, and at times Andalusian professionals and artisans lamented over the 
belief that they were still not receiving proper recognition for their achieve- 
ments, simply because of their western location. A kind of professional 
arrogance existed among Easterners as they flaunted the fact that they were 
residents of the lands which had produced some of the important Andalusian 



skills and sciences. 103 But Andalusian scientists greatly improved upon what 
they had acquired. “From Asia Minor, Greece, and Egypt,” writes Paul 
Lacroix, “the exact sciences passed to the Arab schools of Spain at Cordova, 
Seville, and Granada, where they were cultivated with much success.” 104 
Aside from recognizing that Lacroix’s reference to “Arab schools” does not 
exclude Africans/Moors, since Andalus was dominated by Africans (“Berber”/ 
Moorish) in ancestry, we should point out that most of the alleged philosophy 
and erudition of Greece, is increasingly being established as having actually 
been Kemetic (Egyptian) in origin. Therefore, the presence of so-called 
“Greek knowledge” in Moorish academia, is, in reality, largely erroneous or 
overstated. We will address this issue later. 

Jose M. Millas a Spanish historian who has shed considerable 
light upon the great significance of the Moors to Christian Spain and western 
Europe as a whole. Vallicrosa, who made considerable use of primary Span- 
ish sources, has earned a reputation in the field of intellectual history as it 
relates to al-Andalus. Vallicrosa makes the point that in 529 A.D. there was a 
migration of Greek scholars to Persia. These individuals were fleeing the 
tyranny of the Emperor Justinian, who had closed the academy at Athens and 
began persecuting the Greek teachers. Persian rulers welcomed these learned 
refugees and Baghdad soon became the new center for the sciences as these 
scholarly refugees carried their ancient wisdom into Persian society. 105 Chejne 
says that the tradition of supporting the sciences continued in Persia. Conse- 
quently, additional waves of Hellenic scholars continued to flee Byzantine 
Greece for Persia and elsewhere. Even after the coming of Islam to Persia 
during the 7th century, these Greeks were still able to flourish within the new 
Islamic state. Abbasid Caliphs such as al-Mansur (754-775) and al-Ma’mun 
(813-33), encouraged the translation of ancient Greek manuscripts. Such 
support for the ancient writings and teachings continued under Persia s Islamic 
rulers. 106 

Vallicrosa mentions Harun al-Rasi (786—809) and his successor al-Mamun 
(813-833) as the two caliphs who most revered and supported academic 
pursuits in Abbasid controlled Persia & the so-called “Middle East. In 
assessing what the Muslim world did with their ancient Greek transmissions, 
Vallicrosa writes of the cultural syncretism that occurred, as Moors and Arabs 
of the Islamic world appropriated the ancient wisdom: 

In the full fever of the translation of the Greek, those Eastern sciences: 
astronomy, mathematics, astrology, were syncretized with the Greek, as 
we can see in the works of al-Jwarizmi. And the Muslims who were in 
possession of all the elements of the previous cultures worked now on 
their own, correcting and surpassing the Greeks and Indians, checking 
the Tables of Ptolemy, perfecting their Geography, creating a technique 
and an instrument of experimentation which was incomparably superior 
to that of the Greeks, and in short, elevated the culture to a degree of 
apogee that constitutes one of the most illustrious moments of humanity. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Hastings Rashdall addresses the various ways in which western Europe 
received the knowledge of the ancients. On the acquisition of Aristotle- 
attributed texts he states: 

By the beginning of the thirteenth century, in consequence of the opening 
up of communications with the East — through intercourse with the Moors 
in Spain , [emphasis mine] through the conquest of Constantinople, through 
the Crusades, through the travels of enterprising scholars — the whole of 
the works of Aristotle were gradually making their way into the Western 
world. Some became known in translations direct from the Greek: more 
in Latin versions of older Syriac or Arabic translations . 108 

As we continue, we will acquire a better sense of the great number of ancient 
and contemporary writings which came to Europe through the Moors of 

While it may be true that the Moors of Andalus may have acquired some 
uniquely Greek knowledge through the support of the Abbasid (the ruling 
dynasty of Baghdad) for the Greek immigrant-savants, there is also evidence 
which suggests that the Moors already possessed most of what the majority of 
European historians say they allegedly acquired from the Greeks. 

The Andalusians were enjoying the full flower of their civilization nearly 
two hundred years before the western based Catholic armies had conquered 
and ransacked the city of their own fellow Christians of Byzantium, during 
the 13th century. It also stands to reason that the reputation of Moorish Spain 
and the openness of her society, would have attracted students from all over 
Europe. After all, western Europe had much easier access to al-Andalus than 
to any other part of the eastern world, including Byzantine Greece. It would 
make much more sense therefore for the bulk of Greek and Islamic scholarship 
to have entered into western Europe via Moorish Andalus, and few intellectual 
historians today would or could dispute this fact. 

Although a few Islamic rulers were annoyed by certain ideologies which 
surfaced in al-Andalus, the society remained a stronghold of science and 
philosophy. Few, if any, Andalusians were ever forced to flee the country in 
fear for their lives, because of their scientific or philosophical views. Yet, it 
was rather common for learned Greeks to flee Christian Byzantium, in order 
to escape persecution and even death. Given these facts, how indigenous 
could secular knowledge be to a society which was so often violently opposed 
to it? Equally relevant is the fact that the pre-Christian Greeks of antiquity 
were also known to have endured similar censorship! Consequently, if we are 
to believe that natural science and Aristotelian philosophy were the products 
of native Greeks, and if we are to accept that it was a definite part of their 
indigenous society, then why were the ancient Greek scholars so often per- 
secuted? There are some historians who have asked this same question and 
thereby concluded that “Greek Philosophy” is actually a misnomer. Such 



scholars contend that it is little more than the continuation of ancient Egyptian 
teachings, created by Egypt’s own African priests. 

The late great intellectual historian George A. James, wrote something 
which is very profound in relation to the ancient Kemites (Egyptians) and the 
“medieval” Moors. He stated: 

... the people of North Africa were the neighbours of the Egyptians, and 
became the custodians of Egyptian culture [emphasis mine], which they 
spread through considerable portions of Africa, Asia Minor and Europe. 

During their occupation of Spain, the Moors (Mauretanians) displayed 
with considerable credit, the grandeur of African culture and civilization . 109 

James also elaborates upon what ValHcrosa had alluded to earlier concerning 
the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. James states that both the edicts of Theodosius 
in the fourth century and later of Justinian (529), closed down the temples of 
the “Egyptian Mysteries” as well as the philosophical schools of Greece. The 
result was an intellectual darkness which descended over civilized Christian 
Europe and the entire Graeco-Roman world. It lasted for nearly seven centu- 
ries and the Greeks were afforded no open opportunity to improve upon the 
ancient Egyptian knowledge. 110 

James points out that the ancient Greeks had traditionally migrated to 
Egypt for the purpose of education, and they had been doing this ever since 
the Persian invasion in 525 B.C. By citing ancient sources, histories by Pliny, 
Hermodorus, Strabo, and Plutarch, James sought to establish that the wisdom 
of the Hellenic thinkers was an import from Egypt. James reminds us of 
ancient Greece’s habitual expulsion of her resident scholars. Anaxagoras was 
indicted and imprisoned by the Greek authorities, and he had to escape back 
home to Ionia. Plato and Aristotle were forced to flee Athens under great 
suspicion, and of course the fate of Socrates is well known to students of 
European Classics. 111 James seeks to establish that these men were not the 
standard teachers among Greeks and had not been schooled with an indigenous 
Greek education. James contends that these men were harassed and punished 
by the government of the Greek city-state, for introducing foreign and dan- 
gerous doctrines. In addition, James points to the highly impractical practice 
within “Western” academe, of attributing the authorship of as many as one 
thousand different books on various subjects, to Aristotle. 112 

James believes that the Royal Egyptian library was immediately ransacked 
and looted by the Greeks upon the arrival of Alexander’s armies. 

Just as these books were captured in Egypt by the army of Alexander and 
fell into the hands of Aristotle, so after Aristotle’s death, these very books 
were destined to be captured by a Roman army and conveyed to Rome 

Hence, we see another primary path by which Europeans acquired ancient 


Golden Age of the Moor 

African knowledge. I might also direct the reader towards the recent work 
Black Athena (1987) by Martin Bernal, which also establishes the African 
origins of so-called Greek Philosophy. 

If we consider the evidence of James, it would appear that if the Moors had 
borrowed anything from the Greeks, it was in many cases something which 
the African had already possessed. James maintains: 

During the Persian, Greek and Roman invasions, large numbers of 
Egyptians fled not only to the desert and mountain regions, but also to the 
adjacent lands in Africa, Arabia and Asia Minor, where they lived, and 
secretly developed the teachings which belonged to their mystery system. 

In the eighth century A.D. the Moors, i.e., natives of Mauretania in North 
Africa, invaded Spain and took with them, the Egyptian culture which 
they had preserved. Knowledge in the ancient days was centralized, i.e. 
it belonged to a common parent and system, i.e., the Wisdom System or 
Mysteries of Egypt, which the Greeks used to call Sophia. 114 

Aside from comparable expertise in medicine and other areas of natural 
science which both the “medieval” Moors and ancient Kemites shared, I can 
also see a peculiar similarity in architectural skill. Dr. Ivan Van Sertima 
pointed out that at Lixus, Morocco and Gizeh in Egypt, there are the “finest 
African examples” of “fitted megalithic masonry.” 113 We are told that the 
technique requires great skill, as the massive stone blocks which are fitted 
together are not of any one shape or size. Van Sertima says that the stones in 
these structures display “the complex regularity of patterns or designs in a 
jigsaw puzzle.” 16 I find this to be a curious correlation between Morocco’s 
Maures/Moors and Egypt’s ancient Kemites, and I would relate this to ob- 
servations and assertions of George James, regarding the Moors being “cus- 
todians of ancient Egyptian erudition and culture. 

While many European/“western” academicians have regarded contentions 
such as those of James as far-fetched, it is easy to see how one might question 
the credibility of “the Greek miracle” after noting the prevailing tendency 
among Western scholars to eliminate all discussion of the Egyptian middlemen 
This is rank racial chauvinism in light of all the evidence of historical contact 
between the Greeks and Egyptians. It serves to perpetuate ignorance of the 
facts among continuing generations of students and scholars. 

I would also add that, for a people who were allegedly so far in advance 
intellectually and technologically, it is peculiar that the Major Center for 
science/technology in the ancient world was not in Greece, but in Egypt. One 
should always bear these things in mind as one reads of Moorish texts on 
Aristotle, Plato and other Greeks, and the Western assertion that the Moors 
merely acquired ancient European (i.e. Greek) knowledge. 



Areas of Expertise Among Andalusian Moors 

In assessing the general attitude among all Muslims of the “medieval” 
period, Fazlur Rahman tells us that physicians ( hakims in Arabic) were con- 
sidered the most vital of scientists and of greater importance than philosophers. 
The physician was the life-saver, and because of the direct life-saving appli- 
cation of medical sciences “Muslims had bestowed on the art of healing 
exceptionally high religious value and priority.’” 17 Appropriately, in the field 
of medical science the Andalusian Moors made remarkable progress and 
surpassed the Greek-trained Muslim physicians of Persia (Nestorians) and 
other Eastern Islamic nations. 118 Moorish medicine was based upon experi- 
mentation (tajribah), reasoning (qiyas) and observation. Moorish physicians 
used drugs, surgery, and cauterization; medicine was a highly technical 
profession complete with extensive training and a code of conduct. Physicians 
were academically trained scholars whose conduct and code prescribed 
stateliness, kindness, unselfishness, understanding, and discretion. The 
physician’s hair and nails had to be short and their bodies were always to be 
clean. They also wore white attire. Each physician had to pass a licensing 
exam before beginning his practice. 119 In the meantime, Chejne informs us of 
how western European healing practices at that time still largely relied upon 
charms and amulets; socially and politically powerful clergy frowned upon 
and repressed medicine, thereby leaving the field in the hands of quacks and 
barbers. 120 Perhaps the most common form of therapy among the medieval 
European was that of covering the sick with blood-sucking leeches in order to 
draw out illness. 

Europeans offered no competition with Moorish advances m pathology, 
aetiology (study of diseases), therapeutics, surgery and pharmacology. Texts 
were written by Moorish physicians describing surgical technique and the 
instruments that were used; doctors specialized in pediatrics, obstetrics, oph- 
thalmology, and in the treatment of hernias and tumors. Imamuddin tells us 
that Moorish scientists were even importing monkey skeletons from Africa 
for use in dissection when conditions prevented the use of cadavers. 121 

For the Andalusian Moor, scholarly endeavor was considered divine. The 
more one knew of one’s self and one’s World, the more one was supposed to 
know of one’s Creator. 122 The ancient Kemetic creed “Know Thyself’ was 
very much the creed of Andalus. From the commoner to the Caliph, this was 
the primary philosophy of the Andalusian Muslim. Rulers such as the Caliph 
Abd al-Rahman III, spent almost one third of the state’s income on education. 123 
At a time when most Christian monarchs could not even write their own 
names, the Caliphs (Khalifs) of Moorish Spain were often scholars. The 
Caliph al-Hakim II (960-90?) had a personal library of almost half a million 
books, and he was said to have been familiar with much of it. 124 Interestingly, 
McCabe points out how even after Europe had inherited Moorish and Arab 



Golden Age of the Moor 

academic gifts, she did very little with them at first; eighty-five percent of 
Europe would still be illiterate in the eighteenth century. McCabe states that 
significantly more than fifty percent of Andalusians could read over seven 
hundred years earlier. 125 When we consider the huge number of bookshops/ 
dealers in Cordova alone (20,000) 126 McCabe’s seemingly high estimates on 
Andalusian literacy are given support. 

When one evaluates the general status of Europe during most of its medi- 
eval period — and even the centuries which followed, one has to ask: What 
happened to all the scholarship and wonderful cultural acquisitions from 
Africa and the East? It would appear that the Catholic powers only took an 
interest in Eastern/Oriental knowledge and science, in order to compete 
politically and socially with the Moors and other Muslims; and when the 
Moorish Islamic threat diminished, so did Catholic Europe’s interest. Monroe 
believes that this was certainly true of Catholic Spain. 

Monroe asserts that the basis for setting up centers for Arabic studies was 
an attempt by Catholic powers to counter Islamic expansion. 

Faced with a foe superior in culture, the Spaniards of medieval times 
were quick to find means to combat an alien and invading civilization by 
studying its nature and then writing a polemical literature destined at first 
to halt the Islamic expansion and later to convert the Moriscos of Granada 
to Christianity. 127 

I might add that the fruits of these studies by the Spanish Catholics ultimately 

made their way into other European nations. With regard to the attempts at 
conversion through the use of theological argumentative literature (polemics), 
success is not clearly evident, particularly when one recalls the establishment 
of the brutally coercive “Inquisition,” and the tendency of the Moors to flee 
Catholic-controlled regions. 

Some medievalists, like Rashdall, frequently claimed that the primary 
reason for Catholic Europe’s interest in the translation and study of Moorish 
treatises, was for the purpose of converting the Moors into Catholics. But, as 
we take note of the type of work which was being translated, we see that much 
of Europe s focus was upon Arabic/Moorish scientific and mathematical 
texts. This fact does not offer much support for the assertion that the primary 
interest of Catholic-dominated European societies was simply the proselytizing 
of Muslims. 

Naturally , countries throughout the world heard of the greatness of Moorish 
Andalus’ civilization. Foreigners knew of the hospitals (bimaristans) which 
were open to all, regardless of one’s ability to pay, and the illustrious colleges 
or madrasas. 128 One example of the type of curriculum of Andalus can be seen 
in the educational prescription of Ibn Hazm (994—1064). Hazm was a Cordo- 
van-born Muslim who had established close ties with the ruler Abd al-Rahman 

V of Cordova. Hazm had written a text on the psychology of the legal 


profession and the importance of education. He took his role as an educator 
very seriously, and he declared that it was greedier to withhold knowledge 
from the curious, than it was to withhold material possessions. 1 * * * V Hazm con- 
tended that a person’s formal education -learning to read and write -should 
begin at five years old. The curriculum of this Moorish scholar from the tenth 
century, advised the following: 

1) The study of the Holy Koran, followed by an evaluation of its meaning. 

2) Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fractions and Plane 
Geometry (in that order). 

3) Arithmetic 

4) Euclid’s treatise on “celestial bodies.” 

5) Ptolemy’s Almagest (this should be studied in order to understand the 
concepts of duration, limitation, etc.) 

6) Logic 

7) Botany, Zoology, Geology and Medicine (in that order) 

8) History — emphasizing the causes for ascension and decline in ancient 
society with the intention of avoiding repeated errors. 

9) Religious Law (Shari’ ah ). 130 

Perhaps it is needless to say that there are several parallels with our own 
“Western”/modern curricula. Amazingly however, this curriculum existed 
among the Moors almost a thousand years ago. Chejne goes on to tell us that 
Hazm called for “a general and integrated education in all the sciences” and 
he recognized the “interdependence of the disciplines.” 131 

One can easily recognize the historical foundation and prototype for Europe’s 
concept of the “Renaissance Man,” in the societal reality and educational 
philosophy of the medieval Moors. Hazm even professed that a knowledge of 
the Koran was “not sufficient without a knowledge of Prophetic Traditions 
and related disciplines and without the knowledge of language, medicine and 
other disciplines.” 132 In truth, most of the disciplines studied by Moorish 
students usually required an understanding of various other disciplines. The 
Sciences were approached Holistically. For example, physics encompassed 
medicine while arithmetic included calculation as well as inheritance laws 
and business. 133 Consequently, Europeans from the scientifically emaciated 
countries of the Christian West made their way into Moorish Spain, either to 
behold the country’s wonders or to partake of such social and intellectual 

Most of the erudition of Andalus rested within her urban centers, and as 
Joseph McCabe states, “Christian visitors to Moorish cities took away thrill- 
ing stories of their splendour and learning.” Even a nun in a remote cloister in 
Saxony (northwest Germany) knew of the magnificent Moorish cities in 
Andalus. The nun, Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim, called the Andalusian cities 
“the world’s ornament.” 134 The Moorish city of Cordova, which is often 
regarded as the medieval world’s most cosmopolitan and sophisticated city. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

possessed (in the tenth century) 1600 mosques, 900 public baths, 213,077 
middle class homes, 60,300 mansions, and 80,455 shops. Wealthier homes 
consisted of two floors, a library, gardens and running water. Her population 
was estimated between half a million to one million residents. All of these 
figures come to us from the seventeenth century scholar of the Maghrib, al- 
Makkari, who consulted the medieval Arabic records. 135 

Anwar Chejne tells us that the Andalusian Moors (and Arabs) “produced in 
the Arabic language a great literature, covering every subject known in 
medieval times: religious studies, language, history, belles letres, geography, 
medicine, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy ... poetry/’ 136 The cities of 
Cordova and Seville were internationally known for their beauty, scholarship 
and culture. Cordova is said to have had some 20,000 bookstores and the 
Pakistani historian, S.S. Ahmad, tells us that books were very inexpensive, 
largely due to the principles of “supply and demand.” Simply put, the large 
number of bookshops required a lower cost in order to attract business. The 
country’s larger urban centers possessed latrines by the tenth century, complete 
with running water. This is six centuries before any other European region. 137 
Andalus also had by the tenth century a postal system of swift horses and 
lighted streets. 138 

The Moors had introduced to Europe more effective irrigation systems, 
various fruits, and horticultural methods which were virtually unknown out- 
side of Africa. Until their decline around the 14th century, the Moors were the 
backbone of leather, metal and wood-working, as well as the pottery, silk, and 
wool-weaving industries. The Moors had even set up municipal regulations 
for the various trades. 139 In reference to their architecture, McCabe states that 
the Moors, “carried the standard of internal decoration of houses and palaces 
to a height unknown elsewhere in the world.” 140 In contrast, medieval Chris- 
tian Europe was steeped in the squalor and bleakness of scientific and cultural 
ignorance. The castle or abode of the medieval European was most often dank 
and cold, with the floor covered in animal and human droppings. 141 It is only 
after the coming of the Moors (and other Muslim peoples) to western Europe, 
that Christian Europe begins to resemble an industrious Civilization — in the 
true sense of the word. 

Andalus’ reputation spread far and wide. Many Europeans from outside of 
the Iberian peninsula began crossing the borders in order to study the wonders 
of a highly civilized people and their society. Moorish schools and bookshops 
were open to all those who entered the land peacefully. As a result, the 
erudition of men such as Abu Walid Ibn Mohammed Ibn Rushd, Abu Bakr 
Ibn Bajjah, Ibn Sina, Abulcasis and others, became increasingly popular in 
Western circles of academia, particularly among Clerics. 

Abu Walid Ibn Mohammed Ibn Rushd, known to most Europeans as 
“Averroes,” was born to a distinguished Cordovan family in 1126. Although 
he distinguished himself as a physician and mathematician, Ibn Rushd spent 




Golden Age of the Moor pimienta-Bey 

much of his life studying those ancient philosophical writings whose author- 
ship is commonly attributed to Aristotle. Averroes sought to illustrate the 
harmonious relationship which existed between religion and ancient philoso- 
phy. 142 Perhaps his most dominant influence was upon the Catholic Church’s 
scholastic dogma, 143 and as we shall see later, his greatest individual impact 
can be noted in the works of the prominent Catholic thinker, Thomas Aquinas. 
Also a physician, Averroes’ encyclopedic medical text: Al-Kullyat fi-al-Tib 
(Generalities On Medicine) , earned him the credit for being the first physician 
to recognize that smallpox could only be contracted once. The text described 
and illustrated with highly detailed drawings, the function of the retina of the 
eye. 144 It also discussed various diseases and their symptoms, pharmacology, 
physiology, anatomy and personal hygiene. 145 In 1255 the text was translated 
into Latin under the title of Colliget . 146 Also known as Correctorium, the 
mastery of this text was required for a medical degree at Bologna. 147 

Another renowned Moorish savant was Abu Bakr Ibn Bajjah (“Avempace”). 
Born in Saragossa in 1085, Avempace was highly influential in medicine, 
philosophy and mathematics. Before his death in 1138, he had written on all 
the disciplines just cited, as well as on music. 148 His book Solitary Regime 
was an international classic and his philosophical writings were translated 
into several European languages, and promptly initiated several scholarly 
debates throughout Europe. 149 

Ibn Sina (980-1037), also known as “Avicenna,” was a forerunner to both 
Avempace and Averroes. A true “Renaissance Man,” Avicenna was a renowned 
physician who had also mastered Logic by the age of fourteen; he is also 
responsible for codifying many Greek-attributed philosophical systems. 150 
During the early 14th century, Avicenna’s medical writings, under the titles of 
Primus Canonis and Quartus Canonis, became two of the standard texts for 
licensing physicians at Montpellier’s medical school. 151 At Bologna, the 
mastery of his medical text “Canon,” was required for licensing. 152 In the field 
of Geology, Avicenna performed studies on the crust subsistence of the Earth 
at various eras in its history, and the stratification of rocks. He also classified 
many of the Earth’s minerals. 153 Several of his writings were translated by 
Europeans and used extensively at Western universities. 

The Catholic European s interest in Moorish erudition apparently existed 
almost from the very beginning of Moorish control of Iberia. Vallicrosa 
discovered original 10th century manuscripts of Arabic texts in the Catholic 
monastery of Santa Maria (in Ripoll). These Arabic treatises covered such 
topics as mathematics, logic, astronomy and medicine. The existence of these 
Arabic treatises reveals Catholic Europe’s early interest in the study of 
Moorish scholarship — in spite of the fact that the Muslim authors were 
customarily maligned as heathens. Corpus, a Latin text, was a collection of 
Moorish writings on natural science, astronomy, computation, and geometry. 
It had been compiled at Ripoll. 154 Knowing this fact, we can certainly hy- 

pothesize that there were several other monastic European centers of the same 
early period, involved in the translation and study of Moorish works. What is 
ironic, is that the Catholic hierarchy publicly denounced such works as 
“diabolical,” and often referred to the Moorish schools as schools of “de- 
monology.” Colin Smith reveals such hypocrisy among Catholic officials: 

It was normal for Christian authorities to condemn astrology and its 
implications, while often being learned in it themselves. Much important 
material, both scientific and pseudo-scientific, was translated from Ara- 
bic into Latin, and later from Arabic into Castilian, in the 12th and 13th 
centuries at Toledo, Seville, etc. At first under Church patronage, later 
under royal aegis. 155 

One tenth century ChristianvCount critically recalls how the Moors were 
“guided by the stars” and “not by God.” Yet, astrology was one of the areas in 
which European academicians & Church patrons were most interested. As 
Smith’s medieval Latin text reveals, the Count also spoke of how the Moors 
knew many spells and charms which could “stir up the clouds and winds.” - 

I think it is significant just to note here, that the tenth century Latin 
reference that is used, is “moros” and not “alarave” or “Arabes” (Arab). 157 I 
think that the reader may also be interested in the emotional tone of the 
Catholic Count who authored this passage, as I certainly considered it to be 
rather strange. For even as the Count criticizes the Moors for what he 
obviously perceived as their sacrilegious or paganistic vision of stellar 
movement, the Count himself reprimands his own God for not assisting him 
in a battle against the Moors. 

“True Christ,” cries the Count “ you have not kept your part of the bargain 
as it was stated to me. You made a pact with me . . .” 158 It seems rather peculiar 
for a “reverent” Catholic of this era to address his Supreme Lord, Jesus, in 
such a manner. 

When we consider the political and socio-spiritual threat which the Moors 
posed to Catholic Europe, it is not hard to understand the respect and/or envy 
which many Europeans had for the Moorish culture and learning. While many 
Catholics resisted the cultural intrusion of the Moors, several Europeans 
mimicked Moorish customs and manners. Even the 11th century Spanish 
Catholic king Alfonso VI dressed in Moorish attire, and had five wives (one 
of whom was a Moor: Zubaydah, daughter of Seville s Moorish ruler, 
Mu’tamid). 159 There was even an entire socio-political group bom of European 
interest in Moorish culture. The Mozarabs, as I mentioned earlier, were 
Catholic Iberians (Spanish) who had adopted many of the customs of the 
African Islamic peoples, including their Arabic language. These Arabic 
speaking Catholics proved to be very significant in the transference of Moorish 
culture to Christian Europe. 160 

Even as Moorish political and military power began to wane in Andalus, 



Golden Age of the Moor 


Europeans maintained their interest in Moorish scholarship. Catholic rulers 
set out to translate Arabic texts. Perhaps the best known Christian European 
patron of translation was Alfonso X (“the Wise”). Alfonso X supported a 
“school” of translators at Toledo during the 13th century, and although we 
know that the translation of Moorish treatises had been going on at least as 
early as the 10th century, Toledo became the major center of translation for 
Christian Europe. Because of Alfonso’s great support and financial backing, 
Toledo became more productive in the 13th century, than other centers of 
translation throughout Europe, such as those at Barcelona, Tarazona, Leon, 
Segovia, Pamplona, Toulouse, Beziers, Narbonne and Marseilles. 161 

Alfonso was truly “Wise” for engaging in such an enterprise as translating 
and studying Moorish scholarship. Alfonso amassed at his Toledan “school” 
translator-scholars from England, Italy, France and several other European 
lands. These men translated scientific, didactic (morally instructive), polemi- 
cal, and recreational treatises from the Arabic into Latin, 162 into the develop- 
ing Spanish vernacular as well as other European languages, like French. 163 
The works of Andalusian scientists like Abdul Rahman bin Ishaque bin al- 
Haisham, who had written a text on ophthalmology which outlined the effects 
of twilight upon the eye, was translated ( Ilmul-Basr-wa-al-noor (Ophthal- 
mology)) and spread throughout the academic institutions of Europe. 164 Abu 
al-Qasim Khalif Ibn Abbas al-Zahrawi (9367-1013), also known as 
“Abulcasis,” was a renowned Muslim physician and court doctor to the 
Andalusian Caliph al-Hakam II. 165 Abulcasis wrote an encyclopedia of medi- 
cine and surgery entitled al-Tasrif In this three-volume work were sections 
on cauterization, surgery (including detailed discussions on the destruction of 
kidney stones, as well as ophthalmic and dental surgical procedure), and a 
section on treating fractures. 166 One of Alfonso’s translators, an Italian named 
Gerard of Cremona, translated the text into Latin and it became the standard 
text for the instruction of European surgeons . 167 New editions of the work 
were still being published and utilized centuries later at Venice in 1497, Basel 
in 1541, and Oxford in 1778. The famous medical schools at Montpellier 
(France) and Salerno (Italy) used the text for training physicians, complete 
with its superb illustrations on the destruction of kidney and bladder stones 
and the surgical instruments which were to be used. 168 Another of al-Zahrawi ’s 
works, discussed the preparation of drugs using plants, animal derivatives and 
mineral compounds. European scholars translated this into Latin as: Liber 
Servitor is 7 69 

Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr (known by Europeans as “Avenzoar”) was Averroes’ 
medical teacher, and this twelfth century Sevillian-born Moor conducted 
original research in therapeutics, tumors and abscesses, while serving as a 
court physician to both the Almoravid and Almohad courts. His work Kitab aU 
Taysir discussed nutrition and pharmacology. 170 It was translated into several 

Figure 5. An nnutomical Mlus, ration of IliehumaiilK^yf nnn n 19th « 

Library, Tehran] 


Golden Age of the Moor 

European languages. An Italian (?) translator named Paravicius translated it 
into Latin in 1280, under the Latin title of Thesir. Another of Avenzoar’s fa- 
mous texts was a medical work entitled Iqtisad. m 

The civilized world recognized the scientific brilliance of the Andalusian 
Moors and many western Europeans also came to recognize and utilize 
Moorish thought Medieval Europeans were introduced to the assertions of 
Moors like Ibn Khatib, a physician who declared that “The Plague” or “Black 
Death, was caused by tiny unseen contagions. In a treatise Khatib said: 

°/‘" fe , Cti0n becomes clear ‘o this investigator who notices how 
he who establishes contact with the afflicted gets the disease, . . . transmit- 
ting is effected through garments, vessels, and earrings . 172 

Another Andalusian Moor, Ibn Khatimah (d.1369), espoused the same conta- 
gion theory. Yet, the masses of Catholic western Europe remained ignorant- 
they simply perceived the plague as the direct hand of God 173 To mv 
knowledge, no medieval European histories reveal a pre-Moorish theory of 
contagion. As far as is known, medieval Europeans offered no scientific 
reasons for “infection.” Let us again remember that the Catholic masses did 
not view bathing and personal hygiene as vitally important to good health and 
the prevention of disease. 

The medical knowledge of Moorish Andalus was shared with all those who 
sought it. Lectures on medicine were presented by the country’s most famous 
physicians/medical scientists at various universities in al-Andalus. The students 
w o at l en ded them and completed all the coursework were issued a diploma 
(ljazah). As a result, many non-Muslim students (foreign and domestic) 
acquired the expertise of their Moorish Professors. Imamuddin tells us further 
that Jewish physicians acquired the knowledge of Arab[/Moorishl science 
an grew famous everywhere.” 174 Al-Andalus enjoyed international honors 
for her gifted instructors and the excellent physicians she produced. Even 
today in Sri Lanka, the Gopola family, descendants of a famed Moorish 
doctor, Abu Bakr Mohammed Ibn Abdel Malik Ibn Thufail al Madani 
proudly trace their ancestry back to this Andalusian physician. Born in 1165 
a Wadiash (a township of East Granada), al Madani graduated from the 
University of Cordova and became Chief Physician, Counsellor, and Secretary 
to Caliph Abu Yakub Ibn Yusuf of Morocco. 175 

Chemistry treatises by the 12th century Andalusian-Moor Jabir were stud- 
ied by Europeans in academic circles. Jabir was a well known chemist, known 
tor his discovery of nitric, sulphuric, and nitro-muriatic acids. Moorish chemists, 
m general, had also been sublimating, calcinating and distilling several centuries 
before western Europe’s alchemists.™ Incidentally, the word alchemy ap- 
pears to indicate an African origin, as chem is a reference to Egypt, and al is a 
common term of introduction for “a subject” in the languages of Arabic and 
Spanish (Al-Andalus for example). 



Desoite religious differences, Europeans clearly had easy access to Moorish 
crholarship In fact, Andalusian social realities of religious tolerance encour- 
Sed Christian Emopean accessibility. In assessing the Muslim worid in 
general, Benjamin Lewis had this to say: “While great numbers of Jews and 
dissenting Christians of various kinds fled from Christendom to the lands of 
Islam there were very few who cared to move in the opposite direction. 

But the great advantage which many Catholics/Christians took appears 
have concerned some Muslim contemporaries. At least one Andalusian Mus- 
lim was known to complain about the considerable ease with wh>eh Christian 
Europeans were able to acquire and commandeer Moorish scholarship. In h 
worK Seville Musulmane, Ibn Abdnn (12th cent) wrote: Books of science 
ought not to be sold to Jews or Christians, except those that treat of their own 
relfgion. Indeed, they translate books of science and attribute authorship to 
thefr co-religionists or to their bishops, when they are the work of us 

Although he was a Catholic, King Alfonso X (coronated in 1252) eagerly 
patronized the translation of scientific, recreational and P h ^ s °P^ al 
which had been written by African, Arab, and Persian Muslims. Under 
Alfonso’s patronage, the organized “school” of translators 
translations than any other European center. Alfonso was undoubtedly W 
for he was able to deviate from Church dogma and turn his Catholic subjects 
on to Moorish erudition. He recognized the usefulness of Moorish scholar- 
ship, in uplifting the comparatively “backward” nations of Catholic Europe. 
But let us be mindful that Alfonso was not the first to establish sue 
organized center of study and translation. In fact, A ^" s0 , X / aS t ° n ^ n < ;°"' 
tinuing a “school” of translators which had been established almost a cen y 
earlier by Archbishop Raimundo of Toledo, who was actually a French 
national (Raimont de Sauvetat 1125-1152) who had settled in Andalus 
Raimundo had established this scholarly center for the good of Christian/ 
Catholic Europe’s intellectual progress. 179 There was also a co-founder with 
Raimundo, a Bishop named Michael. These two clerics had created an in er- 
national community of translators at Toledo. 180 They served as patrons to such 
European savants as Peter “the Venerable” and Plato “of Tivoli Pla o an 
Italian, translated Moorish treatises on mathematics and biology. • Hato > s 
famed translation, Liber embadorum, was translated on August 15, 1 145. e 
text discussed Trigonometry as well as the biological processes of menstrua- 
tion, something which was completely foreign to the scientifically starved 
mind of the western European. 182 

Proctor informs us that more than just translation was going on at these 
Toledan centers. She cites a 13th century European, Geoffrey of Vinsauf, who 
spoke of Toledo as a center for the study of the Moorish/Arabic sciences, 
arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, otherwise known by the Latin- 



Golden Age of the Moor 



i ; 

European academy as the quadrivium. Geoffrey placed the city’s academic 
significance alongside those of the cities of Bologna, Salerno and Paris. 183 
What was common among all these European cities was the extensive use by 
their academies of Moorish and other Muslim scientific treatises. Throughout 
the medieval period several European translator-scholars would sojourn from 
al-Andalusian cities such as Toledo, with stores of precious Moorish manu- 

Of all the translators at Toledo, the best known is probably Michael Scot. A 
Scotsman by nationality, Scot came to Toledo about forty years before the 
reign of Alfonso. Charles H. Haskins tells us that his early education is a 
mystery, but by 1217, he is credited with the translation of a Moorish 
astronomical and mathematical text. Scot’s translation of the writings of the 
Moorish scientist, al-Bitruji, appeared as Alpetragius “On the Sphere ” on 
August 18, 1217. 184 This European translator ultimately acquired a reputation 
as a brilliant scholar, as a result of his great familiarity with the works of 
Moorish and Arab scholars. Even Scot’s original works Liber introductorius 
and L iber particularism merely cite the scientific observations of African sci- 
entists like Albumacer, Jafar, Zael, Mashallah, and a number of other 
Andalusian thinkers. 185 

Michael Scot’s major emphasis tended to be upon the writings of the 
Cordovan born Moor, Abu Walid Ibn Rushd (Averroes). Averroes’ com- 
mentaries (evaluative assessments) on Aristotelian-attributed texts, were of 
primary interest to Scot and his clerical patrons. Vallicrosa informs us that 
Scot’s translations of Averroes’ works were largely responsible for the es- 
tablishment of Averroism among medieval European intellectuals. As a rule, 
Aristotelian texts were of major interest to Catholic scholasticism during this 
time. The Church was seeking to reconcile ancient teachings with the presiding 
dogma of the Vatican, and the study of Aristotelian-attributed texts was, 
therefore, a key focus. The entrance of Scot’s translations of Averroes’ 
commentaries on Aristotle, actually upstaged the previously dominant 
Avicennism. 186 Significantly, Avicenna was another Andalusian Moor, whose 
philosophical and scientific writings had been very popular at European 
universities and among European thinkers. Avicenna’s popularity was thereby 
replaced by Averroes as the Church-State of medieval Europe sought to make 
its theological tenets more rational and standardized. 

Even after Alfonso X’s death in 1284 the translator’s “school” at Toledo 
continued. His brother-in-law Sancho of Aragon (Archbishop of Toledo) and 
another Archbishop, Gonzalo Garcia Gudiel, both continued to patronize the 
scholarly translations at Toledo. Both men possessed manuscripts on scientific 
works translated from the Arabic, and they eventually willed most of these 
texts to the Cathedral library. Evelyn Proctor says that the surplus of fourteenth 
century manuscripts attests to the feverish copying, studying and translating 
which continued at “holy” Toledo until the end of that century. 187 The famed 



Golden Age of the Moor 


ed social and intellectual progress within the West 
fhn ?, e o W t aS V f ry httle that was i § nored by the Western European translators »» 
mentary ^ T AvZTuT °" ^ n0my ’ aNBattani ’ s -nous andtcL 



entire Christian world. Accordine tn Pmrtnr u , g , ent ot the 
books of reference for 4, f h ° Ped '° prod "“ s,andard 

chns, ia „ layma „ as well as the 

exclus^ve^Tng^geof^b^^SomeUmerh” 5 ^ ^ 

Mohammed into Paradise) be translated into tte 

having been originally translated from the Arabic. 

Bonaventura of Siena, completed the task in May of 1264 It was entitled-’ 
Livre de leschiele Mahomet , 192 This fact reveal* t,™ • “ w as entitled, 

reveals that th^m u u ’ S .. reveaIs two important things. It 
Franrp f a if USt haVe k een S1 § nificant relations between Spain and 

relatSnlhi^and 50 ‘T 3 translation - ft also reveals an academic 

relationship and exchange with morophile Italy. The text’s translator 

In°May o^ 1 280 " anoth ° f ft T^J- ° f Italia " S Wh ° W3S in A}fonso ’ s “W 
amtodo 2 AiA e n P al ' an ’ P ' etr ° de Regi °’ WaS sent b y Alfonso L an 

m COndUCt dipl0matic affairs and scholarly 

ouno serve as 2 ? J ^ ° ftCn Sent his scholar-translators 
to serve as ambassadors of scholarship, and such a practice would have 

sci e r e fof AndaTus e ’’S nStian nati ° nS thg °PP ortunit y t0 ac ^ire the Moorish 

had A nr,l P r° ted M ,° 0r i Sh emditi0n at ever >' opportunity and his actions 
ad great impact upon the future of Christian Spain and ultimately all of 
western Europe i mam uddin suggests that the Spanish universities at p y a]enda 

(founded 1214 by Alfonso VIII), Salamanca (founded 1215), and Lerida 
(founded 1300 by Jaime II in Aragon), were all primarily established for the 
specific purpose of translating the Arabic treatises of the Moors into Latin He 



oes on to say: “The first university in Christian Spain was founded at 
Palencia by Alfonso VIII in the thirteenth century and the teachers employed 

were Muslims and Jews .” 195 

Although Palencia and Salamanca pre-date Alfonso X, the establishment 
r „ n organized center for the translation and study of Moorish texts had 
° ready begun at Toledo, with Raimundo and Michael in the 12th century 
Therefore Alfonso X’s support was not the impetus for the establishment of 
these two ’universities, but the interest in, and reliance upon, Moorish schol- 
arship is again quite apparent. Lerida’s growth, however, may have been 
directly influenced and supported by Alfonso X’s thirteenth-century school. 

When one notes the period in which most of Europe’s oldest and finest 
universities were established, one cannot but be struck by the proximity in 
time to the scientific flowering of Moorish Andalus and the establishment of 
European centers for the translation of Moorish documents. 

1158 Bologna (It) 

1180 Montpellier (Fr.) 

1200 Oxford (Eng) 

1209 Valencia (Cath. Sp.) 

1223 Toulouse (Fr.) 

1224 Naples (It) 

1228 Padua (It) 

1245 Rome (It) 

1250 Salamanca (Cath. Sp.) 

1257 Cambridge (Eng.) 

1279 Coimbra (Sp/Port.) 

1290 Lisbon (Sp/Port.) 

The revelations of the above clearly support the contention that Europe s 
academic ascension was primarily born of its contacts with the Moors who 
were occupying European soil. The establishment of these famed European 
universities during the same time its scholars are studying the works of 
Moorish Andalus, even making them standard texts in astronomy, mathematics, 
medicine, etc., cannot simply be dismissed as coincidence. The extent of the 
Moorish impact upon all areas of western academia can be demonstrated. 

The effect of the Moorish and Arab impact on the field of astronomy can be 
noted by European names for certain stars or constellations which have an 
Arabic origin. Acrab (aqrab=scorpion), Algedi (al-jadi=the goat), Altair (al- 
ta’ir=the flyer), Pherkard (farqad=the calf), and Deneb (dhanab=the tail). 
Even technical terms like azimuth (al-sumut) and nader (nadir) illustrate a 
Moorish/ Arabic origin. 197 Judwal, the astronomy text of the Moor al-Zarqali 
(Arzachel), even became the standard text of Oxford University. Al-Zarqali s 
text contained various tables outlining the lunar months of the Coptics, 
Romans and Persians. It was translated at Toledo in the 13th century and 
became known as the “Alfonsine Tables” (after Alfonso X). Later, it was 


Golden Age of the Moor 

revised by an Englishman named John of Lignieres, and finally made its way 
to Oxford in England, via the English Bishop, William Reade of Chichester. 198 
Hence we see another example of the migration of Moorish knowledge 
throughout the medieval European world. 

There is no doubt that the medieval western Europeans were under the 
scientific tutelage of Andalusia’s Moors. Beginning with monastic dependence 
upon Arabic treatises in the 10th century, Europeans translated and studied 
the texts of the African and Arab emigrees to Iberia. Even a Catholic Pope 
studied in Moorish Andalus. Before ascending to the Papacy (renamed as 
Sylvester II), the famed Frenchman Gerbert of Aurillac (10th century) had 
travelled to Andalus to study the Moorish sciences. 199 In the medieval-era 
chronicle Historia Pontifical by Gonzalo de Illescas, Gonzalo tells us that 
Gerbert came to the study of the liberal arts and mathematics at Seville, 
where the Moors had a principal school dedicated to those disciplines.” 200 He 

is also credited with having first introduced Arabic numerals to western 
Europe/ 01 

Moorish Medical Expertise and European Acquisition: 

The medical expertise of the African Muslim came primarily to the West 
via the countries of Andalus and Sicily. Appropriately, both of these countries 
are well noted for their Africanization during the medieval period. Prior to the 
entry of the Moors and Arabs, many medieval Western Europeans tradition- 
ally confronted physical illness with “prayer, holy water, the touching of 
relics, and pilgrimages to holy places.” 202 Except for a few herbs which were 
used for dressing sores, there was actually very little which could tangibly be 
done by the western European “healer.” 203 Meanwhile, Moorish expertise in 
surgery, pharmacology and medicine, were well known by the elite and 
scholarly few of Catholic Europe, as well as those adventurous common folk 
who had sojourned to the illustrious Andalusia. 

Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr (“Avenzoar”) was the Sevillian-born Moor who had 
been the great Ibn Rushd’s medical instructor. 204 We remember that Avenzoar 
wrote a widely acclaimed text on tumors, abscesses, and therapeutics while 
serving as a court physician to both the Almoravid and Almohad courts. 205 
His text Kitab al-Taysir, which covered pharmacy and nutrition was translated 
into Latin (as Thesir ) in 1280, and was studied at the major (and newly 
established) universities of Europe. 205 One French historian, Paul Lacroix, 
informs us of how for centuries, the medical writings of Moorish scientists 
such as Avenzoar (Ibn Zuhr), Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Averroes (Ibn Rushd) and 
Mesue, were being printed at Venice “with marvellous rapidity.” As late as 
1495, a Parisian printer, Pierre Caron, published an herbal dictionary 
(L ’ Arbolayre ) composed of extracts from medical treatises by Moors such as 
Avicenna, and a Sicilian-based African known as Constantinus Africanus 



The book would be reprinted years later under the Franco-centric title of 

Grand Herbier en Francois. 201 . _ . u 

Constantinus Africanus was born in the eleventh century in Carthage. He 
studied in his African homeland and in Asia for 29 years, and gathere 
together various manuscripts on medical science. For reasons unknown, he 
came to Salerno Italy around 1063, bringing his expertise and valuable 
manuscripts to Europe. Encouraged by a European patron named Desidenus, 
who later became a Pope, Constantinus shared his knowledge with the Italian 
Kingdom. 208 The original works and voluminous translations of medical texts 
by Constantine propelled the famed medical school at Salerno towards inter- 
national renown. 209 The contributions of this African scientist were officially 
recognized in the twentieth century. In 1930, the Eighth International Con- 
gress for the History of Medicine erected at Monte Cassino, Italy , a monument 
celebrating the contributions of Constantine, whose medical influence, the 
monument states, lasted 400 years. 210 

For many centuries the mastery of Moorish medical works was required for 
obtaining medical degrees at Europe’s most prestigious universities. In 1311, 
the Catholic Church even held a Council in Vienne, where they pronounced 
and endorsed the teaching of Arabic studies at the Universities of Rome, 
Paris Bologna, Oxford and Salamanca. 21 1 At Bologna, for example, Averroes 
Colliget and Avicenna’s Canon were the standard texts. European instructors, 
such as Tarenta the Portuguese at Montpellier, Cemisone of Parma at Padua, 
Mengo Biancheli at Pavia, and Bencio of Sienne at Bologna, were all well 
known teachers of Moorish medicine at their respective universities. Even 
in the 1500’s, centuries after the Moors had lost control of Spain and Italy, 
there was a Spanish professor named Salaya, at Salamanca’s university, who 
insisted upon the great need for an “Arabist” named Nunez. During this 
period of Catholic intolerance of Moorish religion and culture, Salaya still 
wanted the candidate Nunez to teach at the school. Salaya argued that there 
is a great need for Arabic, especially among doctors of medicine ... Nunez is 
learned ... it should be awarded to him, were it only for the sake of his 
Arabic.” 213 But Catholic resentment against the Moors would eventually lead 
to the loss of Spain’s prosperity, since, in the interest of Vatican dominated 
politics and national cohesiveness, she systematically tried to erase any 
reminder of her Moorish dominated past. 

Moorish Impact Upon Italian Kingdoms: 

Al-Idrisi, often labelled by westerners as “the Strabo of the Arabic peoples, 
was a famed geographer and cartographer of the 12th century. Al-Idrisi was 
Moroccan born in the city of Ceuta in 1 100, and he was educated at Cordova 
in Andalus. Al-Idrisi later travelled to Sicily to enter the service of the 
Norman ruler Roger II. Roger II was known for his great enthusiasm for 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Moorish and Arab culture, particularly their sciences. Idrisi was commis- 
sioned by Roger II to construct a great silver globe. 214 Completed in 1 154, 215 
Idrisi ’s globe listed countries, seas, rivers, deserts, and major cities and even 
roads. Idrisi partitioned his globe into Seven Zones of the world. In addition, 
Idrisi wrote a companion geography book entitled Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq 
al-afaq, later to be known as The Book of Roger If. The section of the book 
dealing with the African continent dwelt upon the customs of various African 
peoples, including their commercial activities, agricultural products, the fab- 
ric of their cultures. 216 

Like his grandfather Roger II (both of whom are referred to as “the two 
baptized Sultans”), the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II of Sicily, was also 
infatuated with the culture and wisdom of the Moors. Frederick II who ruled 
from 1215-1250, surrounded himself with Muslim scholars and vassals. 217 So 
intense was his interest in Islamic cultures, that he was popularly believed to 
be a closet Muslim. 218 Frederick II founded the University of Naples in 1224, 
and there he established a curriculum which emphasized Moorish scholar- 
ship. In fact, under Frederick II, theological studies at all Italian universi- 
ties under his dominion ceased completely! Moorish Medicine and Law 
became the sovereign disciplines. No theological faculty would be seen at 
Naples until 1363. 220 Prior to his ascension to the Spanish kingship, Alfonso 
X of Castile even established academic relationships with his Imperial con- 
temporary Frederick II. After Frederick’s death, he continued to send his 
Toledan-based scholars to the Sicilian kingdom as ambassadors of Andalusian 
Moorish scholarship. One such ambassador was John of Cremona, a gifted 
European student of Moorish erudition. 221 The learned Europeans of Frederick 
H’s court were frequently educated outside of Catholic Europe. The most 
famous Italian mathematician of the period, Leonard of Pisa, was in Frederick’s 
court, and he had been educated in Africa. 222 

Following the Moorish physicians of Andalus, Frederick II standardized 
medical licensing in 1231 throughout his kingdom. He required that medical 
candidates attain a “Royal License” before beginning their practice. 223 This 
brought about a comprehensive regulation of physicians, surgeons, and phar- 
macists throughout Sicily. 224 Even after Frederick’s death, the patronage of 
Moorish (and Arab) scholars, and the study of Arabic texts continued. Both of 
Frederick s sons, Manfred and Charles, remained patrons of Muslim schol- 
arship. Frederick II had amassed quite a number of books by Moorish and 
Arab scholars and, upon his death, his son, Charles of Anjou, gave many of 
these to the Vatican as gifts. 226 One need not spell out the irony and signifi- 
cance of this fact. 

France and The Influence of Moorish Erudition: 

French academia and cultural development owes a heavy debt to Moorish 


culture and erudition. At Montpellier, the only medical school outside of 
Andalus to rival Salerno, 227 translated works by Avicenna and Constantine 
“the African” (Africanus), were standard texts of study for medical licens- 
ine. 228 Moorish medical and surgical techniques dominated the school. 

O’ Callaghan also brings attention to the fact that the French school rested 
within the dominions of the Aragonese monarchs. 229 In discussing the city of 
Montpellier, Rashdall adds: “Many of the original inhabitants were Spaniards 
who had long resided among the Moors.” 230 There lay the opportunity for 

cultural and scientific borrowing. 

At one point Lacroix, who was a nineteenth century European historian, 
attempted to malign elements of Moorish medical theories. He criticized the 
Moorish doctors for insisting that the Reasons and lunar periods had direct 
effects upon the human bodyi'He was also critical of the Moors’ belief that the 
blood rose during the day and descended into the body’s lower extremities at 
nieht and that phlegm subsided during the night as well. 231 It is amazing, 
therefore, when we consider the recent “revelations” of Western science 
about the effects of the Moon on menstruation in women, and the drainage of 
the sinus cavity during sleep. Aside from pointing out that lunar stages 
evidently have an effect upon the mental states of many people, Western 
psychiatrists have also illustrated how the various seasons can affect bio- 
chemical reactions which produce strong psychological and physical changes. 

Interestingly enough, the city of Montpellier rests upon the ruins of 
Maguelone, a town where thousands of Moors had taken refuge after retreat- 
ing from the destructive armies of the Catholic ruler Charles ( the hammer ) 
Martel in 131. 232 The town retained a large Moorish population, and McCabe 
writes: “The Moors made a lasting impression on the people of southern 
France, and for years these people remained culturally in contact with the 
Moors.” He continues: “The passes of the Pyrenees were the real source of the 
first inspiration of barbaric Europe and the South of France soon became the 
most prosperous and most heretical region in (Christian) Europe.” This is 
very revealing when we consider that the French of the northernmost regions 
were still very much into the brutal (and legal) practice of ordeals by fire & 
water, as late as the 13th century. 234 In contrast, the Moors were a people of 
written and just laws, hospitals, public baths, universities and great libraries. 
The Medievalist Hastings Rashdall informs the reader in a footnote, that Arles 
and Narbonne, French medical schools near Montpellier, are believed to have 
been established by Moors and Jews. 235 Lectures on Moorish medical tech- 
niques were still being given at Montpellier as late as the 17th century. 

The school of Chatres, which was the forerunner to the University of Paris, 
was the first French school devoted to scientific studies. Unlike so many other 
Western institutions, Chatres did not begin as a theologically-focused Cathe- 
dral school, and Vallicrosa informs us how most of its students travelled to the 
Ebro region of Moorish Spain for more extensive studies under the Moors. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

'Jijv At Chatres, the books °f Constantinus Africanus, Averroes and Avicenna 

i were extensively used. 238 Until other European schools (like Oxford) could 

I 'i!| ,|t| obtain greater access to Moorish erudition, French schools like Chatres acted 

'M as an ,nternat '°nal center for students from England, Normandy, various 

, . | ;i| I Germanic states, Burgundy and Finland. 239 

il'i'l S „ In the twelfth centUf y most English scholars and students had travelled into 

: 1 1 i 11 |J P * ns for their education. 240 This changed, however, as the English learned all 

■|' ! | J,l the y could at the French schools and elsewhere. England’s institutions improved 

I ! ■ j lij!; and English society acquired greater academic independence. Initially, Oxford 

i ij' !( f was a kind of branch campus of the University of Paris. Rashdall says, “The 

' llJi r University [Oxford] was originally in all probability a colony of Parisian 

) ' ' ^ > ch 1 00ls transferred to English soil.” 24 ’ Like Montpellier [and Chatres] and 

I I i Bologna in Italy, Oxford did not originate as a Cathedral school 242 under the 

!i regimented supervision of Vatican-sanctioned clerics. Consequently, such 

| 1 1 i !' European academic institutions were able to adopt Moorish learning without 

1i 1 , me Church’s typically debilitating restrictions. Incidentally, one of the first 

instructors at Oxford was a man named Adam de Marisco, 243 whose name 
j .']! translates as Adam “of the Moors” or “of Moorish blood.” 

M;! What remained of ancient scholarship had suffered a grave decline in 

Europe, prior to the coming of the Moors and Arabs. With the exception of 
I' Jilj'i some Insh schools and a handful of monasteries in northern Spain, almost no 

!j!.'Yj | Classical learning (i.e. the teachings of the Ancients) was taking place under 

"ji!' |' | | Christian Europeans of the medieval era. 244 A European Catholic male was 

l! j'v!|! ; considered to be scholarly/educated if he could read and meditate upon the 

. 1|l|: j i I Bible, and was familiar with the biographies of the Saints (hagiography) 245 

! N Che j ne sum marizes very well the medieval European’s predominant per- 
il i! I spective: 


l 1: l Western man was preoccupied with the theocentrism of the Church to the 

hi- p extent that he negated the anthropocentrism of the classical period and 

;■ I 1 ! considered it lacking in Supreme Truth. For centuries, truth could — 

■I, 1 'li Wlthin ‘ he fra ™ework of Church policy - be conceived by faith alone, as 

■ ! opposed to reason. 246 


'! Ill Rashdall excuses Middle Age Europe’s de-emphasis upon reason and secular 

jj] knowledge of the natural world. He states: “The Christianized barbarian 

: i'll ! recognized the spiritual, if he did not recognize the intellectual, needs of 

i humanity.” 247 

Needless to say, the sciences were certainly not flourishing among such 
' Europeans. But following the coming of the Moors, Arabs and Muslim 

j, Persians, intellectual light shone over the European nations. The written 

research of Moorish scholars was an indispensable base upon which western 
Europe’s scholarly inquirers could become scientists and intellectuals. Christian 
and Jewish translator-scholars carried into western Europe the written wis- 



dom of the Andalusian Moors as well as their own observations on Muslim 
learning. As these European scholars then traversed through Christian Eu- 
rope, they left behind them traces of their acquired learning. Even the educa- 
tional histories of revered European thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas and 
Roger Bacon, reveal an intellectual dependency upon the erudition of the 

The famed and canonized Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) had been a men- 
dicant friar (Monk) of the Dominican Order. This Italian born cleric first 
attended Monte Cassino and then Frederick II’s University of Naples, with its 
Moorish dominated curriculum. 248 An analysis of Aquinas’ academic writ- 
ings illustrates a considerable dependence upon Averroes’ commentaries. 249 
Given this, I think it is evident that Aquinas used Averroes’ evaluations of 
Aristotelian-attributed texts, Tn order to ameliorate the dogmas of Catholic 
scholasticism, for which he is so revered. The Spanish historian, Asin- 
Palacios, revealed that the Mendicants had established a tradition of entrust- 
ing to their brother-scholars, translations of Moorish and Judaic philosophical 
texts. In this way, fellow Catholic thinkers were able to utilize the academic 
materials of their Christian brethren at other monastic centers. The Order’s 
excellent organization gave Aquinas access to several important treatises and 
works 250 (as did the Univ. of Naples), which he then used in his attempts to 
assault Islamic theology, and in his development of a more rational Christian 
theology. Given these facts, it is even more significant that Roger Bacon, 
another monastic savant of Catholic Scholasticism, was also a mendicant. 

Roger Bacon, a Franciscan monk, was an Englishman who was born in 
1214 (died 1294). 251 In assessing the great significance of Roger Bacon, 
Lacroix states: 

He [Bacon] represents more accurately than anyone else in the thirteenth 
century the movement which was already urging so many minds to the 
study of nature, and to the experimental method. 252 

I would simply qualify Lacroix’s assessment by saying that his reference to 
“anyone” is relative to Europeans, for Andalusian Moors were in fact provided 
the catalyst and foundation for the very 13th century movement of which 
Lacroix speaks. 

Strangely, Bacon is sometimes criticized by European historians for having 
been too secure with Moorish scientific and philosophical concepts and 
observations. Yet, the basic creed of Roger Bacon was that theology and 
philosophy had to be studied philologically and historically, while natural 
science had to be approached mathematically and experimentally. 253 This very 
Moorish contention sounds very reasonable and acceptable to me. In fact, 
Bacon was highly successful as a scientist and he was often considered ahead 
of his time, at least in comparison with his Christian European contemporar- 
ies. He was particularly lauded for his alchemical skills, and he is credited 


Golden Age of the Moor 

with producing a gunpowder made of phosphorus and saltpetre. 254 But what is 
perhaps most intriguing about this acclaimed English student of Moorish 
scholarship, is his fate. 

McCabe informs us that Bacon spent almost twenty years under some sort 
of house arrest. During that time, his monastic superiors prohibited him from 
reading or writing. 255 In fact, Bacon’s writings would not even be printed in 
England until the eighteenth century. Even though these circumstances strongly 
suggest that Bacon was being censored by some establishment or authority, 
the conservative medievalist Hastings Rashdall insists (in a footnote) that it 
had nothing to do with “any sort of persecution or theological reprobation.” In 
reference to English academia’s incredible delay in failing to print Bacon’s 
writings earlier, Rashdall asserts that it was simply “due to their desultory and 
unsystematic character” and he discusses it no more. 256 But owing to Bacon’s 
great fame as a pioneering scholar of medieval Europe, it is rather difficult to 
believe that it would take five centuries before England’s savants would 
undertake the task of compiling their fellow Englishman’s writings for print. 
It seems more likely that Bacon was censored by Catholic and perhaps other 
prominent authorities, because his focus upon and reverence for Moorish 
erudition was simply too heretically extensive for that particular time. Others 
like Michael Scot, of whom we spoke earlier, were often ostracized and 
censored as “witches” because of their studies in Moorish sciences and 

The last medieval European of considerable fame, which we will mention, 
is Adelard of Bath (1090—1150). Born in England, this 12th century catalyst 
of Moorish erudition, also studied in Palestine and Cilicia [an ancient land of 
southeast Asia Minor]. 257 One of Adelard’s most widely known translations 
was of al-Khwarizmi’s Arithmetic. 25 * Adelard’s writings covered such areas 
as trigonometry, astrology, falconry, philosophy, and alchemy. In his widely 
popular text Questiones naturales, Adelard confesses that his text is merely 
the knowledge of “his Arabs,” as if to remove himself of responsibility for its 
contents, or perhaps to display an unusual degree of recognition for the 
Muslim peoples who had educated him. The work discussed the growth of 
plants and the natural characteristics of certain animals. It explained the night 
vision in certain animals as resulting from a difference in the humor of their 
eyes. Other sections of the work discussed the network of muscles and veins 
in man, and even the causes of tides and earthquakes. 259 Interestingly enough, 
all these observations and scientific revelations already existed in the treatises 
of Andalusian scholars, and let us remember that Andalusian Moors were 
particularly astute in both these disciplines of natural science and medicine. 
However, it is possible that elements of his knowledge came from other 
Muslim countries, as he was known to have traveled to them. 

Whether he did it for reasons of personal safety or as homage to Muslim 
erudition, Adelard constantly attributed his knowledge to the Islamic peoples. 



He began his text Astrolabe by crediting his knowledge to “the opinions of the 
Arabs ” Adelard’s influence would last centuries after his death, and t is 
aonrentice of “Moorish/Arab” erudition, would still be found among the 
scientific contentions of men such as the Italian savant, Pice .della Mirandola 
H5th cent.). 260 One must consider the significance of Adelard s habit of 
consistently attributing the contents of his great works to “his Arabs” and the 
ooinions of the Arabs.” At a later date I would like to secure the original Latin 
t e P x t in order to see for myself what term he used. For it would not surprise me 
to find mows or maures inappropriately translated by some European histo- 
rians as “Arab” in the interest of maintaining “racial” confusion about the 
highly significant and revealing “Medieval” period. 

■* Conclusion: 

This essay has revealed the extensive impact of the Africanized Iberian 
nation upon the nearby European nations of the medieval period. The cu Rural 
and scientific superiority of the Moors impacted upon the intellectual and 
cultural progress of Europeans. We have seen how Andalus, with its schools, 
scholars, hospitals, trades, architecture, devout regard for education and 
religious tolerance, lured many Europeans into her borders. We recall the Nun 
of Saxony, speaking of the grandeur of Moorish Spain as > f h ad been 
bewitched by it. Indeed, we recall that the official stance of the Catho 
Church was that the science of the advanced Moorish society was part y due 
to witchcraft. Yet, hypocrisy is clearly evident, as the extensive clerica 
interest in Moorish and Muslim scholarship in general led l ° ed “ C Jf° n 
and writings of such giants of Western Intellectualism as Abelard of Bath 
Thomas Aquinas, and Roger Bacon. The obvious conclusion of all this is that 
the Church recognized the theological threat posed by such an advance 
society as Islamic Andalus. Powerful Church officials recognized that they 
could not assert the Vatican’s political and social authority in the midst of a 
people like the Islamic Moors of Andalus. These people -like the Arab and 
Persian Muslims -were designated as “heathens.” Yet, such heathens were 
healing the sick with great success, living comfortably and lavishly, operating 
their society with relative order, fairness, and just laws. Why, these heathens 
even smelled nice, and they were right there in western Europe s bac yar . 

For centuries “maverick” Catholic rulers such as Frederick II of Sicily and 
Alfonso X of Castile, engaged the Moors and tapped into their scholarship. 
Much to the dismay of various high-level Catholic Authorities, men like 
Alfonso X and Frederick II surrounded themselves with Moors and other 
Muslims, and they partook of their considerable erudition for the greater good 
of their own Catholic Kingdoms. Centers of translation, such as the one at 
Toledo, sought to speed up the process by which European Catholics could 
acquire access to the sciences and knowledge of the Moors. Under Alfonso X, 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Toledo outstripped the other local centers of study and translation at Barcelona, 
Tarazona, Leon, Segovia, and Pamplona, as well as monastic centers of 
translation like Ripoll. Even French centers such as those at Toulouse, Beziers, 
Narbonne and Marseilles, could not keep up with Alfonso’s Toledo. Strangely, 
after all the centuries of scholarly acquisition, and scientific tutelage under the 
Moors, Europe’s masses would ultimately remain ignorant of much of the 
Moorish erudition. The use of al-kuhl / alcohol as an antiseptic, and proper 
habits of personal hygiene for good health, would largely disappear from 
Europe’s societal memory until Charles Lister introduced antiseptics several 
centuries later. 

Within the histories of such selective European societies as Freemasonry, 
Rosicrusianism, and even the Shriners, one can find allegorical remnants 
which reveal the considerable historical debt of the West to Moorish/Muslim 
erudition. In fact, specific references to the “medieval” Moorish connection to 
Masonry can be found. Even the name “Mason” means son of a Moor. 

Evidently, as the Church grew stronger through its infamous Inquisition 
and the final downfall (by the 16th cent.) of Moorish power in Europe, the 
Church could more easily assert control within European society. Tradition- 
ally, the official posture of the Church was to warn members to stay away 
from Moorish scientific practices and philosophies. Ironically, however, it 
was Catholic clerics who would eventually bring much of the knowledge of 
the Muslims into the Church and many educational centers in the West. But 
then again, any intellectual reform had to come from within the Church cadre, 
since the Church held such great power. The Catholic Church was the 
political, social, and religious foundation of medieval European society. 

At several periods in its history the Vatican displayed some noteworthy 
tolerance towards the study of Moorish scholarship by its members. But, for 
the most part, the Church Officials and the Clerical Elite publicly frowned 
upon the secular wisdom introduced by the Muslim peoples, in spite of the 
fact that many Clerics had themselves studied Moorish sciences and philoso- 
phies. It was as if these men wanted the Catholic masses to remain ignorant so 
as to allow easier control of the society. Such Catholic Bureaucrats of the 
period evidently felt threatened by a community which was being taught how 
to rationalize about the natural world, the Creator, and their personal condition 
in society. Moorish society and scholarship was espousing and inferring such 
concepts, and many European Catholics regarded this as dangerous. Hence, 
many students of Moorish erudition had to take their acquired wares under- 
ground or face the fate of European intellectuals like Jordano Bruno, who was 
burned for the heretical conduct of embracing Pantheistic doctrines regarding 
the nature of the God-Force and Man {Handbook In The History of Philoso- 
phy by Albert E. Avey, Barnes & Noble, New York, 1961.). Pantheism is a 
common criticism offered by Christian European intellectuals who evaluate 
both Islam and other traditional African theologies. I am convinced that 


Figure 7. This 
which have as 

;torial shows a few of the numerous European family names 
eir progenitor an African Moor or so-called “Negro. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Bruno was asserting Moorish (as well as Kemetic) philosophical and religious 
principles with which he came in contact during the course of his studies. 

Let us not forget that Moorish/Muslim erudition encompassed the teachings 
of the ancient Kemites/Egyptians. There are many historical correlations 
between the Moors and the ancient Kemites. Appropriately, those European 
nations where the Catholic Church was less politically powerful, such as 
France, particularly the southern regions, were able to benefit the most from 
the scholarship and cultural advances of the Muslim people. The highly 
advanced Albigensians (also known as Cathars) at Languedoc in southern 
France offer a good example. Michael Bradley discusses this French community 
in his Iceman Inheritance , and describes how, in the thirteenth century, the 
Pope launched a genocidal Crusade against these men, women and children 
who were labelled heretics. Again, the community’s inspiration appears to 
have been the Moors to their south, from the nearby borders of Andalus. In 
contrast, Catholic Spain’s “Reconquista” (reconquest from the Moors) and 
the religious fanaticism and intolerance it promoted ultimately affected Spain’s 

Monroe tells us of how the economic and political interests of the new 
Catholic Spanish state compelled Spaniards to destroy many Moorish manu- 
scripts that the Conquistadores acquired after the fall of Granada in 1492. 
According to Pascual Gayangos, Cardinal Jimenez de Cisneros ordered the 
burning of nearly eighty-thousand books in the public square of Granada. The 
Cardinal is said to have asserted that since the books were all in Arabic, they 
were Korans, and therefore dangerous. 261 Reason dictates that the books were 
not all Korans and the Cardinal knew that. His actions displayed not just 
religious bigotry but hatred for the superior Moorish culture which had 
threatened Catholic European hegemony at that time. Who knows what great 
literature and scientific knowledge was lost in the flames? Let us recall the 
great need for an “Arabist” at Salamanca (less than twenty years after this 
event), in order to rejuvenate the fledgling medical profession of Spanish 

In sum, the medieval European had several means of acquiring the wisdom 
of the Andalusian Moor: Direct study at any of the countless Moorish schools 
(madrasas) or universities like Cordova and Granada, the purchasing of books 
in Andalus, such as from Cordova’s 20,000 recorded booksellers, instruction 
from Moorish Teachers at European schools inside and outside of the Iberian 
peninsula, the extensive standardized use of translated Moorish texts at 
European institutions, as well as instruction from Moorish-trained Jewish and 
Christian European teachers. Indeed, all these modes of acquisition were 
employed by curious medieval Europeans who recognized the praxis and 
beauty of Moorish erudition and culture. Although like the Cat, curiosity 
sometimes killed such Europeans trapped by the vacillating and unpredictable 
conduct of the Church’s leaders, Moorish and Muslim scholarship still propelled 





Golden Age of the Moor 


" h ”“ phco »'- v - ■*”* “-™» - « 

western European societies far beyond the dark age into which, after the 
borrowed brilliance of Greece and Rome, so many had fallen. It propelled 
them beyond the dark cage within which a Clerical Elite, even when given the 
keys to an Enlightenment, kept the masses imprisoned for centuries. 


1. Anwar Chejne, Muslim Spain : Its History and Culture (Minneapolis: The 
University of Minnesota Press, 1974), p. 126 

2. Titus Burckhardt, Moorish Culture in Spain. Translated by Alissa Jaffa. (N.Y.: 
McGraw-Hill Co., 1972)./Forward/ 

3. Wayne Chandler’s “The Moors: Light of Europe’s Dark Ages.” Ivan Van 
Sertima ed. African Presence In Early Europe. (New Brunswick N.J.: Transaction 
Books, 1985), p. 149. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization. Translated by Mercer 
Cook. (Westport Conn.: Lawrence Hill & Co., 1974), p. 53. 

6. Ibid , p. 52. 

7. Van Sertima ed., African Presence In Early Europe , p. 144. 

8. Diop, p. 128. 

9. Ibid, p. 125. 

10. Ibid, p. 151. 

11. Ibid, p. 127. 

12. Ibid, p. 126-7. 

13. Richard Brace, Morocco , Algeria , Tunisia. (Englewood Cliffs N.J.: Prentice 
Hall Inc., 1964), p. 7-8. 

14. Ibid. 

15. Luiz Vazquez de Parga ed., Textos Historicos En Latin Medieval Siglos VIII- 
XIII vol. 23 (Madrid: Escuela De Estudios Medievales C.S.I.C., Comision De Latin 
Medieval, 1952). 

16. Enrique Sordo, Moorish Spain (N.Y.: Crown Publishers, 1963), p. 18. 

17. Diop, The African Origin of Civilization, p. 145. 

18. Joseph McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain (Girard Kan.: Haldemar- 
Julius co., 1927), p. 53. 

19. Ibid, p. 9. 

20. Brace, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, p. 8. 

21. James T. Monroe, Islam and The Arabs In Spanish Scholarship (Leiden: E.J. 
Brill, 1970), p. 182. 

22. Diop, The African Origin of Civilization, p. 145. 

23. Ibid, p. 128. 

24. J.A. Rogers, Sex and Race vol I (St Petersburg FI: Helga M. Rogers, 1967), p. 

25. * J.A. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color Line, also has many excellent illustra- 

26. William Shakespeare’s Othello, printed by Bantam Books. 

27. Frances Cress Welsing, “The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Rac- 
ism (White Supremacy),” (Wash D.C.: C-R Publ., 1970). 

28. De Lacy O ’ Leary, A rabic Thought and Its Place In Western History (London : 
Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1922), p. 234. 

29. Ibid, p.235. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

30. Van Sertima ed., African Presence In Early Europe, p. 144. 

31. O’Leary, Arabic Thought and Its Place in Western History, p. 235-6. 

a c • '», ^' Z “ Afrocentricit y And The Berber- Arabo-Muslim Heritage of North 

AAS400 ^1 990) p h 12 Paper/Dept ° f African American Studies class/Temple Univ/ 

33. Ibid. 

34. Ibid , p. 16. 

Press 1968) p ^ G ° lden Tmde °^ The Moors (London: Oxford University 

37. Ibid, p. 24-7. 

Press 1 975) P p Ts^l^ 30 ’ A Hist0ry Medieval Spain (Ithaca: Cornell University 

39. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 134. 

40. O’Callaghan, p. 158-60. 

41. Chejne, p. 111. 

42. McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain , p. 140. 

43. Chejne, p. 185. 

44. Ibid, p. 5. 

45. O’Leary, Arabic Thought And Its Place In Western History, p. 240-1 
1935) p J °249 h McCabe ’ The S P lendours of Moorish Spain (London: Watts & co., 

rni 7 ' ./In, 6 ViC ? D S ^ iv f S ’ A PP roaches To The History of Spain. Translated by Joan 
Connelly Ullman. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970) p 21 

48. Brace, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, p. 23. 

49. O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, p. 152. 

50. Ibid . 

51. Ibid, p. 133. 

52. McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain, p. 16. 

53. O Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain , p. 309-10. 

li' X ^ CS 11 A PP roaches To The History of Spain, p. 34-5. 

55. O Callaghan, p. 145. 

56. Ibid, p.186-7. 

57. Ibid. 

cn X!^ eS ,’ A PP roaches To The History of Spain, p. 3 1 . 

59. O Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, p. 146-7 

60. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 352. 

61. Ibid, p. 136. 

/^fwc^ bert rT Igna i' US w UrnS ’ Moors and c rusaders In Mediterranean Spain • Col- 
lected Studies (London: Variorum Reprints, 1978), p. 453. P 

63. Burckhardt, Moorish Culture In Spain, p. 53. 

FreSric^UngL^ubU l^O)^.’ 257 ^ ^ ° fMedieval Science ( N - Y ' : 

65. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 136-7. 

66. Ibid, p. 245. 

67. Ibid. 

68 RnrplrhurHl /^..L r r n,. 

68. Burckhardt, Moorish Culture In Spain , p. 87. 

69. McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain, p. 18. 

70. Sordo, Moorish Spain, p. 32. 

71. McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain, p. 20. 



72. Ibid. 

73. Ibid. 

74. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 406. 

75. Ibid . 

76. Ibid, p. 367-8. 

77 Sordo, Moorish Spain, p. 18. _ , 

78 S S. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History 

of Muslim Spain: 711-1492 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965), p. 83. 

79. Ibid, p. 88-90. 

80. Ibid, p. 73. 

81. Ibid, p. 77. 

82. Ibid, p. 73. 

83. Ibid, p. 74. 

84. Ibid, p. 80-1. , , . , n , , 

85. O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, p. 3U5-0. 

86. Van Sertima ed., African Presence In Early Europe, p. 164-6. 

88. Dkdonado De La Lengua Espanol: Vegisima Edicion Tomo II (Madrid: Real 
AC 89 em Henry ^ Coppee! history of the Conquest of Spain By The Arab-Moors vol II 

(Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1881), p. 235. 

90 Van Sertima ed., African Presence In Early Europe , p. 168. 


Translated by Remy Ingles Hall. (N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1970), p. 201. 

93. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 158. 

94. Ibid, p. 166. 

96. Imamuddi Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 

MU 9T S?. Ahmad, 7 T/te Moorish Spain (Karachi Pakistan: Farooq Kitab Ghar Publ., 
1972), p. 158. 

98, Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 347. 

lOO.Imamuddlnj Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 

Muslim Spain, p. 139. , _ . n 

101. Haskins, Studies In The History of Medieval Science, p. 9. 

102. Ibid, p. 10. 

^105 F Jose M k MU 1 as Vallic’rosa, Las traducciones orientates enlos manuscntos de 
la Biblioteca Catedral de Toledo (Madrid: Consejo Superior De Investigates 
Cientificas Instituto Arias Montano, 1942), p. 4. 

106. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 313. 

108. Hastings a Rashdall, The Universities of Europe In The Middle Ages, vol I 

(London: Oxford University Press, 1936), p. 70 ... .. - • 

109. George G.M. James, Stolen Legacy (London: The African Publication Soci- 
ety, 1972). p. 39. 

WO. Ibid. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

1 11 .Ibid, p. 42-5. 

1 12. Ibid, p. 129-30. 

1 13 .Ibid, p. 125. 

1 14 .Ibid, p. 39. 

^15. Ivan Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus (N.Y.: Random House, 1976), 
\\6. Ibid. 

1 17. Fazhur Rahman, Health and Medicine In The Islamic Tradition: Change and 
Identity (N.Y.: Crossroad Pub]., 1987), p. 18. 

1 18. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of the Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 
Muslim Spain , p. 162. 

1 19. Chejne, Muslim Spain , p. 351. 

U0. Ibid, p. 357. 

121. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of the Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 
Muslim Spain, p. 162-4. 

122. Chejne, p. 167. 

123. Ahmad, The Moorish Spain, p. 143. 

124. McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain , p. 20. 

\2S. I bid, p. 248. 

126. Ahmad, The Moorish Spain, p. 160-1. 

127. Monroe, Islam And The Arabs In Spanish Scholarship, p. 3. 

128. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 352. 

129. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of the Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 
Muslim Spain, p. 148-9. 

130. Chejne, p. 170-3. 

131. Ibid, p. 175-5. 

132. Ibid. 

133. Ibid, p. 344. 

134. Sordo, Moorish Spain, p. 32. 

135. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 136,/Sordo says a half million people lived in 
Cordova: p. 32. 

136 .Ibid, p. 162. 

137. Sordo, Moorish Spain, p. 32. 

138. McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain , p. 20. 

139. Sordo, p. 18. 

140. McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain, p. 33 

141. Ibid, p. 21. F ’ 

142. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 
Muslim Spain, p. 149-50. 

143. Rashdall, The Universities of Europe In the Middle Ages voll, p. 351. 

144. Ahmad, The Moorish Spain, p. 254. 

145. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 356. 

146. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 
Muslim Spain, p. 150. 

147. Rashdall, The Universities of Europe In The Middle Ages voll, p. 246. 

148. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 322. 

149. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 
Muslim Spain, p. 193. 

150. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 316. 

151. Rashdall, The Universities of Europe In The Middle Ages volll, p. 127. 

152. Ibid vol I,p. 246. 




153. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 

Muslim Spain, p. 159. _ , . r . ^ 

154 Jose M Millas Vallicrosa, “La Corriente De La Traducciones Cientificas De 

Origen Oriental Hasta Fines Del Siglo XIII,” Journal of World History vol 2 1954-5, 

p. 404—5. . c 

155. Smith, Christians and Moors In Spain voll, p. 55. 

15 6. Ibid, p. 57. 

157. Ibid. 

158. Ibid, p. 59. . , 

159. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 

Muslim Spain, p.188-9. . 

160. Haskins, Studies In The History of Medieval Science, p. 12. 

161. Ibid, p. 17. 

162. Evelyn S. Proctor, Alfonso X of Castile (Westport Conn: Greenwood Press, 

1980), p. 6. ^ 

163. Ibid, p. 3 & 16. 

164. Ahmad, The Moorish Spain, p. 250. , 

165. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of the Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 

Muslim Spain, p. 163. 

166. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 356. 

167. Imamuddin, p. 163. 

168. Ahmad, The Moorish Spain, p. 248. 

169. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 356. 

170. Ibid. . , _ , . , 

171. Imamuddin, Some Aspects of the Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 

Muslim Spain, p. 163. 

172. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 357. 

173. Imamuddin, p. 164. 

175. S.M. Ahamed Udayar, “Sri Lanka Moor Physicians (Hakeems) To The Smhala 
Kings,” Moor's Islamic Cultural Home Souvenir IV 1977-1982 (Colombo, Sri Lanka: 
Mohinudeen Hamzah, 1983), p. 171. 

176. Imamuddin, p. 161-2. 

177. Benjamin Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe (N.Y.: W.W. Norton & 
Co., 1982), p. 125. 

178. O’ Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, p. 313 

179. Ibid. . , . , 

180. Vallicrosa, Las traducciones orientales en los manuscritos de la Biblioteca 

Catedral de Toledo, p. 8-9. 

181 . Haskins, Studies In The History of Medieval Science p. 10. 

182. Ibid, p. 11. 

183. Proctor , Alfonso X of Castile , p. 8. 

184. Haskins, p. 272-3, & 277. 

185. Ibid, p. 291. 

186. Vallicrosa, Las traducciones orientales en los manuscritos de la Biblioteca 
Catedral de Toledo, p. 10. 

187. Proctor, Alfonso X of Castile , p. 14. 

188. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 403. 

189. Proctor, p. 6. 

190. Ibid, p. 12-13. 

191. Ibid, p. 3. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

192. [bid, p. 16. 

193. Proctor, p. 130. 

194. Ibid, p. 123. 

. . ^ Ifnamuddin, Some Aspects of the Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 
Muslim Spain , p. 137-8 [The dates for the founding of the Spanish universities of 
Valencia Lerida and Salamanca, are from Monroe’s text Islam And The Arabs In 
Spanish Scholarship , p. 205]. 

Appendi^™’ SC ‘ enCe Qnd Uterature In The Middle A S es ™d The Renaissance, 

197. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 350. 

198. Proctor, Alfonso X of Castile, p. 9. 

199. McCabe, The Splendours of Moorish Spain, p. 241. 

200. Jose Rodriguez ed. Memorial Historico Espanol (Madrid: Imprenta De La Real 
Academia De La Historia, 1851), p. 388-9. 

201. Vallicrosa , Journal of World History, p. 408. 

143 202 - Lacroix ’ Science and Literature In The Middle Ages and The Renaissance, p. 

203. Ibid. 

204. Im a m u d d in. Some Aspects of The Socio-Economic and Cultural History of 

Muslim Spain , p. 163. y J 

205. Chejne, Muslim Spain , p. 356. 

206. Imamuddin, p. 153. 

122 207 ' Lacroix ’ Science and ^amre In The Middle Ages and The Renaissance, p. 

208. James Joseph Walsh, High Points of Medieval Culture (Freeport N.Y.: Books 

, Press ’ 1969), p. 89. [also cited in Rashdall’s text vol I, p. 811. 

209. Haskins, Studies In The History of Medieval Science, p. 4-5 [also cited in 

210. Walsh, High Points of Medieval Culture, p. 89. 

211. Monroe, Islam and the Arabs in Spanish Scholarship, p. 41 . 

168 ,X ’ ^ andLiterature In The Middle Ages and The Renaissance, p. 

213. Monroe, p. 4. 

214. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 287. 

215. Haskins, Studies In The History of Medieval Science, p. 243 

216. Chejne, p. 287. 

217. Haskins, p. 244. 

218. Ibid, p. 260. 

219. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 403. 

Un L ver , sdies ff Europe In The Middle Ages vol I, P . 250-1. 

221. Proctor , Alfonso X of Castile, p. 130. P 

222 ' Haskins, Studies In The History of Medieval Science, p. 249 

224 Haskins'' Th ^ niversities °f E urope In The Middle Ages vol I, p. 82-3. 

225. Ibid, p. 5. 

226. Ibid, p. 270-1. 

10 1 1 ? LaCr °‘ X ’ Science and Literature In The Middle Ages and the Renaissance, p. 

228. Rashdall, vol II, p. 127. 

229. O’Callaghan, A History of Medieval Spain, p. 500. 



23?'. Lacroix'! itelce andLiterature In The Middle Ages and The Renaissance, p. 

232. Rashdall vol II, p. 120. 

233. McCabe, The Moorish Civilization In Spain, p. 1 1. 

234. Rashdall vol 1, p. 295. 

235. Ibid, p. 121. 

237. Van'icrosa',' Las ^traducciones orientates en los manuscritos de la Biblioteca 
Catedral de Toledo, p. 7-8. 

Science andLiterature In The Middle Ages and The Renaissance, p. 


240. Rashdall vol III, p. 13. 

242. Haskins ^Anniversary Essays In Medieval History (Freeport N.Y.: Books For 
Libraries Press, 1969), p. 268. 

243. Rashdall vol III, p. 248. - 

244. Haskins, Studies In The History of Medieval Science, p. 3. 

245. Rashdall vol I, p. 35. 

246. Chejne, Muslim Spain, p. 401 . 

247. Rashdall vol I, p. 27. 

248. Walsh, High Points of Medieval Culture, p. 203. 

249. Monroe, Islam And The Arabs In Spanish Scholarship, p. 179. 

251. Lacroix, Science andLiterature In The Middle Ages and The Renaissance, p. 

252. Ibid, p. 204. 

253. Rashdall vol III, p. 246. 

254. Lacroix, p. 199. . . 

255. McCabe, The Splendours of Moorish Spain, p. 244. 

256. Rashdall vol III, p.247. ,,_, 4 

257. Haskins, Studies In The History of Medieval Science, p. 33 3 . 

258. Jan Read, The Moors in Spain and Portugal (London: Faber and Faber, ), 

p. 176. 

259. Haskins, p. 37. 

260. Ibid, p. 41. . , _ . . ,. „ 

261. Monroe, Islam And The Arabs In Spanish Scholarship, p. 13. 


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Opusculos y Antiquedades, Que Publica La Real Academia De La Historia Tomol. 

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Biblioteca Catedral de Toledo. Madrid: Consejo Superior De Investigaciones 
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| Vazquez De Parga, Luiz ed. Textos Historicos En Latin Medieval Siglos VIII— XIII 

vol 23. Madrid: Escuela De Estudios Medievales C.S.I.C., Comision De Latin 
Medieval, 1952. 

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' Bem a l, Martin. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization vol I New 

7 Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1987. 

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|? Cheikh Anta. The African Origin of Civilization. Translated by Mercer Cook 

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(Revised by Laurence Butters) Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1968 

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Muslim Spain 711-1492. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1965. tory of 

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Lewis Benjamin. Muslim Discovery of Europe. N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., 1982. 

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| - - The Splendour of Moorish Spain. London: Watts & Co., 1 935. 

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|"! j of Dirt. N.Y.: Dorset Press, 1971. 

ij Monroe, James. Islam and The Arabs In Spanish Scholarship. Leiden: E.J. Brill 1970 



O’Callaghan, Joseph F. A History of Medieval Spain. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 

O’Leary, De Lacy. Arabic Thought And Its Place In Western History. London: Kegan 

Proctor' Evdyn’^^onsoY of Castile. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1980. 
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Rashdall, Hastings. The Universities of Europe In The Middle Ages vo s , 

London: Oxford University Press, 1958. 

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Espanola, 1984. 


Udayar, S.M. “Sri Lanka Moor Physic^s (Hakeeins) To The Smhalafongs:’ Moor Y 

Islamic Cultural Home Souvenir TV (1977-1982) p. 1 n. Eoiomoo , 

Va^crosa.^weld.'Mi'dax^licomenteDe Las^aduccionesCientifi^sDeOngm 

Hasta Fines Del Siglo XIII Journal of World History vol 2. (1954-55). 395 428. 

Welsing, Frances Cress. “The Cress Theory of Color Confroniation and Racism 

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AAS 400, Fall 1990. 


Shakespeare, William. Othello. David Bevington editor. Bantam Books, Printed 1988. 





Jan Carew 

Literature does not die unless its creators become the victims of genocide 
and silence of the grave, and until its creations are erased from the mind’s ear 
and the mind’s eye and calcined in bonfires. At the beginning of the Columbian 
Era, thousands of books that the Moors had collected over centuries — price- 
less masterpieces that their geographers, scientists, poets, historians and 
philosophers had written, and tomes their scholars had translated— were 
committed to bonfires by Priests of the Holy Inquisition. And to cap this 
atrocity, an estimated three million Moors would eventually be expelled from 
Spain or forced to convert to Catholicism. The burning of thousands of books 
and the expulsion of the Moors was a terrible loss to the Renaissance, which is 
seldom acknowledged by Eurocentric historians and scholars. And the glaring 
irony is that the Renaissance would not have been possible without the 
seminal cultural infusions of Moorish scholarship. 

The Fall of Granada on January 2, 1492, marked the end of eight hundred 
years of Moorish suzerainty on the Iberian Peninsula. “According to tradition, 
the valiant General Musa denounced the surrender to the last and rode out of 
the Elvira Gate never to reappear.” 1 And, on January 6, four days after the 
formal surrender, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile rode into the 
citadel and took the keys of the Alhambra, that marvel of Moorish architecture. 
Jan Read who understood the Moorish culture better than most of her blinkered 
Eurocentric peers describes it thus: 

Together with the hanging gardens of the Generalife above, it is perhaps 
the most successful fusion of architecture and landscape ever achieved by 

... Perhaps we can leave the last word to the Emperor Charles V as he 
looked out from a balcony of the Hall of the Ambassadors to the heights 
of the Albaicin opposite and the smiling vega with its groves and gardens 
far below. ‘Ill-fated,’ he exclaimed, ‘is the man who lost all this !’ 2 

The young Caliph, Abu Abdi-Llah (“Boabdil” to the Spaniards), handed 
over the keys to the Spanish sovereigns and so, the Reconquista came to a 
dramatic end. Along with the keys to the citadel came priceless tomes and 
manuscripts which would be scattered and committed to the flames. Boabdil 
had surrendered this last Moorish outpost without a fight and his dark-skinned 

mother, ‘A’isha, had reproached him bitterly, saying, “Weep like a woman for 
what you could not defend like a man.” 3 

Under the terms of capitulation, the conquered Moors would retain their 
own customs and religious freedoms and would be held accountable only to 
their own judges . . . [and] Christian women married to Moors and others who 
had converted to Islam from Christianity would not be reconverted against 
their will. 4 

However, a decade later, Queen Isabella of Castile, whose religious zealotry 
and greed for confiscated Moorish and Jewish property, outstripped that of 
her husband, abrogated this agreement. It was Isabella, too, who appointed the 
infamous Spanish Dominican, Tomas de Torquemada as inquisitor-general. 
She also signed the edict ordering the expulsion of Jews on March 31, 1492. 
From the moment the ink had dried on that order, the fate of the Moors was 
also sealed. It would only be a matter of time before their turn came to be 
forcibly expelled. And it did come ten years later. This precedent established 
a tradition of treachery and racism that was adopted by all of the European 
colonizers who came in the wake of the Spanish, and it would endure 
throughout the Columbian era. 

The thousands of volumes committed to the flames by officials and agents 
of the Holy Inquisition, embodied the best of Islamic and Hellenistic learning 
which had been fed from its earliest beginnings by roots buried deep in the 
creative soil of Africa. Compared to the Christian principalities, like Galicia, 
Leon, Castile and Navarre, the Moorish-dominated al-Andalus was a region 
of unbelievable enlightenment. At a time when the most insignificant provinces 
of Moorish Spain contained libraries running into thousands of volumes, the 
cathedrals, monasteries and palaces of Leon, under Christian rule, numbered 
books only by the dozen. Unlike their Christian counterparts, Moorish rulers, 
“were often philosophers, mathematicians or poets [and] ... at a period when 
[historian] Ibn-Hayyan of Cordoba could write a history of Spain in ten 
volumes, lively, detailed and well-observed, all that eleventh century Leon 
could offer were the fifteen sparse and imprecise pages of Sampiro, notary to 
Alfonso V.” 5 In fact, the paltry number of texts the Christians did possess 
were almost all devotional or liturgical. 6 It was little wonder then, that in 
1492, “less than twenty years after the introduction of printing to Spain, Elio 
Antonio de Nebrija, historiographer royal to Queen Isabella, published in 
Salamanca a grammar of the Castilian language, the first such work ever 
compiled for a European vernacular .... 

“What is this for?” Isabella is said to have asked ... when Nebrija’s book 
was presented to her by a royal courtier, “Your Majesty,” the courtier is 
reported to have answered, “Language is always the companion of empire.” 7 

But the Moors had already known this for centuries. Arabic grammars had 
had to be created so that language could be the companion of an Islamic 
empire stretching across three continents. 8 


Golden Age of the Moor 

On October 12, 1492, nine months after the Fall of Granada, Columbus 
landed on the beaches of the Taino island of Guanahani. Thus, Spain claimed 
that it had discovered a ‘new world ,’ and it embarked upon a shameful course 
of genocide against indigenous peoples of the Americas that made their 
atrocities against the conquered Moors pale by comparison. 

Coming to the Iberian Peninsula in the wake of the Vandals and Visigoths, 
the Moors had, over their long tenure, civilized the land they called “al- 
Andalus,” a name which derived from the former designation of the Iberian 
peninsula as the “Land of the Vandals”. But once the Reconquista had ended, 
a unified Spain seemed bent on moving backwards into the future. With the 
end of Moorish power, the Spanish not only went on a book-burning spree, 
they also tried to erase every vestige of Moorish cultural influence from their 
consciousness. The Holy Inquisition with its limpieza de sangre (cleansing of 
the [Spanish] blood), its zealotry, and its all-encompassing and repressive 
tentacles reaching into the lives of the highest and lowliest in the land, set 
about de-civilizing the Iberian Peninsula. And the persecution was most 
wrenching in the lives of Spain’s principal culture-bringers: the Moors and 
the Jews. But the Moors, who were more numerous and who were expelled 
later than the Jews, resisted long after the fall of Granada. 

In 1568 a second and even more violent rebellion broke out in the 
Alpujarras. Its leader Fernando de Valor (Maulvi MM- Allah Mohammad 
ibn-Umayya), justified his action by declaring, ‘We are in Spain and we 
have ruled this land for nine hundred years . . . .We are no band of thieves 
but a kingdom; nor is Spain less abandoned to vices than was Rome.’ 9 

This particular rebellion was so serious that Phillip II had to call on help from 
Don Juan of Austria to put it down. 

But when one talks about Moors and Jews in the context of that transitional 
period between the rise of Spanish power and the final defeat of the former 
and the expulsion of both, one must bear in mind that neither the terms 
“Moor” nor “Jew” referred to a uniform racial type. They were both the 
products of polyglot racial mixtures in North Africa and Spain, and only their 
cultural and religious trappings would have enabled an outsider to distinguish 
one from the other. 

During their long tenure as rulers, “the Moors ... had set a pattern of 
peaceful symbiosis in their tolerant treatment of Christians and Jews; and a 
new class analogous to the Mozarebs [Christians under Muslim rule] was to 
appear: the Mudejars , or Muslims living under Christian rule.” 10 

For centuries, Muslims, Christians and Jews had lived side-by-side, and in 
many instances had so intermarried that numerous families were part Muslim, 
part Christian and part Jew. The teachings of the Prophet, too, had stressed 
repeatedly that peoples of all races and colors were equal in the sight of Allah, 
and these teachings were not only preached but often practiced. 



The persecution of Moors and Jews, therefore, and their tragic and inhu- 
man expulsion, gave added momentum to the institutionalization of racism in 
Christian Spain after the Reconquista. And this peculiarly European phe- 
nomenon of a manicheistic racism, (white against black and brown), wove 
itself into the fabric of Christianity and remains embedded there to this day. 

At its zenith, Muslim power stretched from China, across the Himalayas 
into India, through the Middle East, and deep into the Nile Valley. It criss- 
crossed all of North Africa, reached down to Dar-es-Salaam in East Africa 
and went as far south as Ghana in West Africa. And it then spread north across 
the Pillars of Hercules to stretch from Portugal’s Atlantic coast, through the 
Iberian Peninsula, over the Pyrenees and into France’s Rhone Valley and 

beyond. , , • , . • 

This vast and complex Islamic geo-political, cultural and racial spread is 

almost invariably viewed through a spectrum of religious intolerance and 
racial chauvinism by Eurocentric scholars. Even the words used to describe 
other peoples, their religion and their culture underscore a continual struggle 
by Europe to come to terms with their biased racial perceptions. Words, such 
as: “Islam” and “islamic”, or “Muslim”(noun) and “muslim”(adjective) have 
been thrown about without a sense of their particular contextual significance. 
“Islam,” the noun, refers to the religion begun by Muhammad in the 7th 
century. “Islamic,” the adjective, refers to the particular character of the 
religion, which then reflects on the noun that follows, as in “Islamic calendar. 
“Muslim,” the noun, refers to a person who is an adherent of Islam, and 
“muslim” the adjective which derives from the noun, refers to the particular 
character of a Muslim, and variously, to the civilization of Islam. The distinction 
between the two is now blurred. 

The terms “Arab,” “Berber,” “Moor,” and “Tuareg,” have also undergone 
several permutations. “Arab” originally referred to an inhabitant of the Arabian 
peninsula who spoke Arabic. But, recent research has pointed to the fact that 
“Arabia was the oldest Ethiopian colony ...” that “the Cushites were the 
original Arabians . . . [and that] Ancient literature assigns their first settlement 
to the extreme southwestern point of the peninsula. From thence they spread 
northward and eastward over Yemen, Hadramaut and Oman. 

When the “Arabs,” therefore, began to spread westwards into Egypt and 
across the Red Sea, they were largely absorbed into the black and brown gene 
pools of the peoples of the Nile, the Sahara and the northern Mediterranean 
and Middle Eastern colonies scattered across the northern rim of Africa. As 
W.E.B. Du Bois pointed out, “The term Arab is applied to any people 
professing Islam, ...much race mixing has occurred so that while the term has 
a cultural value it is of little ethnic significance and is often misleading. 

Furthermore, not all Arabs were or are Muslims, although it is likely that 
those with whom Europe dealt in the period of the Muslim presence in Spain 
were. On the other hand, most “Moors,” that is persons originating in Morocco, 


Golden Age of the Moor 

and “Berbers”, again a very imprecise term referring to polyglot Saharan 
white, black and brown North African groups of largely nomadic people, 
were officially classified as Muslims. They were converted to Islam in the 
sweep of the religion across northern Africa between 640 and 700. And while 
they had some Arab admixture after their long period of cohabitation, they 
were primarily African. Arabs, Berbers, Tuaregs and Moors of every possible 
shade and color were present in that invading army that conquered Spain, but 
it was the Moors, who, coming in successive waves for eight centuries, left a 
permanent imprint upon the Spanish language and culture in particular, and 
European civilization in general. 

For European scholars, the historical mileposts in Europe’s relationship 
with the Arabs, the Saracens and the Moors were the Crusades, the Fall of 
Constantinople to the Turks and the Fall of Granada to the Catholic rulers of 
Spain. These events are locked in a time-warp which, in turn, has created a 
tunnel vision of history with a demonized image of the Muslim as an infidel 
and a perpetual enemy of the ‘devout’ Christian. And in this racist mythology, 
even bandits like el Cid are practically deified as Soldiers of the Cross 
fighting against Muslim ‘barbarians.’ We are not told that after his string of 
victories (as a clever Field Commander, he had devised effective methods for 
overcoming the advantage of the Almoravid’s massed infantry), he time and 
time again joined forces with Muslim groups opposed to the Almoravids. In 
the wake of el Cid’s premature death, however, the Almoravids reconquered 
the whole of southern Spain and Portugal and inflicted a crushing defeat on 
Alfonso VI, his erstwhile mentor. Thus, the victories of this legendary Span- 
ish hero who had fought, first as a mercenary and then as a usurper, were 
brought to naught by Moorish conquerors. Spanish and other European 
historians have, over the centuries, developed a case of amnesia when dealing 
with this sequel to el Cid’s victories. 

At the same time, however, some Arab/Islamic scholars, while deriding the 
narrow focus of the Eurocentric tunnel vision, and the implicit racism built 
into it against them, become racists themselves when dealing with Black 
Africans. In addition to the reprehensible role they played in the Slave Trade, 
they have developed a myopic and chauvinistic vision of their role in history 
and cling to Greek and Middle Eastern civilizations while ignoring the 
tremendous contribution that Africa made to Islamic civilization. 

When the Prophet Muhammad fled to Medina, some of his most devoted 
followers crossed the Red Sea and began to proselyte in Ethiopia. So, the first 
significant groups of the converted were Africans. The Muslim religion, 
therefore, was filtered through the great African civilizations of the Nile 
Valley — the Ethiopian, the Nubian and the Egyptian — in its early stages. 
These ancient civilizations provided Islam with an intellectual, cultural and 
spiritual nexus from which its message and its innermost content would be 
immeasurably humanized and enriched. 



Four centuries after Islam had taken root in Africa, and the Islamic empire 
was at its zenith, the Almoravids, a Sanhaja extension of the Tuareg people, - 
carried Islamic/Moorish culture victoriously into Europe in 1086, giving 
new life to Muslim al-Andalus.” 14 In fact, the predominantly midnight-black 
Almoravids, as relatively new converts to Islam, were the most ardent in 
demanding that those in authority should once more seek to abide by the 
tenets of morality and justice that were laid down in the Holy Koran. And these 
new devotees (the Almoravids), at first intolerant of the urbane and decadent 
intellectuals and scholars in the cities they conquered, were eventually corrupted 
by these very intellectuals. The pristine energy of the Almoravids, however 
did manage to impregnate Moorish literature, art, music and philosophy with 
new rhythms of life and a heightened sense of being. Their musicians, 
storytellers, griots and catechists’ popularized their religious and cultural 
message with a fervor that the original Moorish conquerers had lost. And they 
did this by reaching into the reservoir of African oral traditions which were so 
ancient, that seers and griots had declared that these primordial traditions had 

first come to them ‘from the breath of God.’ 

Biased historians, however, tend to portray the Almoravids (the dark 
Moors) as bigots, while uncouth European marauders like the Crusaders, 
waving Christian banners across the Iberian peninsula and through the Midd e 
East, are depicted as pious Soldiers of Christ. There is an instinctive and deep- 
seated reluctance on the part of Eurocentric historians to acknowledge the 
Moors as the bringers of cultural and scientific enlightenment to Europe, n 
when they are compelled to make grudging acknowledgements of this tact, 
they proceed to whiten the Moors, to tear them away from any suggestion of 
having black African roots. But the stubborn fact remains that at the height of 
its power the Moorish Empire in Africa stretched from the western half of 
Algeria through Morocco and as far south as Ghana; while in Europe this 
empire extended itself from the Atlantic coast of Portugal, through Spain and 
across the Pyrenees to the Rhone Valley in France. And now five centuries 
after the Fall of Granada, the rainbow array of colors and racial types that one 
sees in the faces of the contemporary population of this region - from blond 
and blue-eyed, through various shades of brown to black- is not all tha 
different to what it was in the Moorish Empire in the 11th century despite new 
genetic infusions by migrants and successive waves of settlers. 

Is it any wonder then, that scholars, blinkered by their racism, have 
difficulty acknowledging who the Almoravids (1056-1147) really were; or 
that they continue to describe them variously as: “descended from the Sanhaja 
tribes [sic] of the Sahara;” 15 or “the desert Sanhaja from whom the Almoravids 
had first drawn support,” 16 suggesting the Almoravids, themselves, were 
something else and that they got the Sanhaja to help in their campaign; or “the 
African troops, the Sinhaja;” 17 or a “powerful Berber Sanhajah tribe [sic].” 
Eurocentric historians continue to produce learned treatises on ‘fierce’ and 


Golden Age of the Moor 

‘warlike’ Saharan tribes like the Sahajas, Berbers, Tuaregs etc. — ‘fierce’ and 
‘warlike’ being euphemisms for ‘simple-minded and blood-thirsty.’ Somehow, 
the most blood-thirsty and murderous of European adventurers are never 
described as being ‘fierce’ or ‘warlike.’ 

Evidence of the Moors’ civilizing mission are strewn across the Iberian 
Peninsula. It is, in fact, because of the Moorish conquest and the Moorish 
civilizing mission that the factional European tribes and kingdoms were able 
to direct their energies from fighting amongst themselves to studying the very 
philosophies and sciences that would propel them out of their insular per- 
spectives into unchartered seas and across new continents of the imagination. 

Although there were many instances wherein some prized Arabic texts 
were translated into Latin and/or Romance languages and the originals de- 
stroyed, Christian Spain carried out a systematic anti-Moorish program after 
the Reconquista. Though benefitting greatly from the scientific, the philo- 
sophical, and the literary innovations brought to them by the Moors, the 
Spanish and other Europeans systematically wiped out any and all reference 
to the great influence the Moors had on their subsequent development. 
Nowhere was this more evident than in the literature of post-Moorish Europe. 

The Arabs brought the works of Dynastic Egyptian and Classical Greek 
back to Europe by translating into Arabic the Greek translations of the 
Egyptian texts as well as the works of the Greek thinkers themselves, syn- 
thesizing and improving upon them. Unlike Christian theologians who forbad 
scholars from considering ideas outside of the prescribed ecclesiastical canons 
of the day (Galileo fell afoul of these restrictions), Islam accommodated new 
ideas with grace and a civilized tolerance. 

Muslim scholars had found a particular fascination in the philosophy and 
science of the early Greeks, (not realizing their debt to the Egyptians) and 
after translating the texts of Aristotle, Plato, Ptolemy, Euclid, Heracleitus, 
Galen, Hippocrates and others, they analyzed and improved upon them, 
drawing from their wide-ranging intellectual experiences and observations in 
the vast territories they ruled, and the polyglot races and peoples with whom 
they traded in knowledge, ideas and goods. Muslim scholars absorbed, syn- 
thesized and expanded upon the knowledge of the Ethiopians and Egyptians, 
the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Chinese, and the Indians. A new and mo- 
mentous forward leap in the theoretical and applied sciences evidenced itself 
in Moorish mathematics, medicine, astronomy, navigation, and new concepts 
of world geography and philosophy. The popularity of Moorish scholarship 
was such, that for centuries Arabic was commonly accepted as the language 
of scholars from Europe, Asia and Africa, and the Moorish intellectual centers 
in Toledo, Cordova, Seville and Granada became Meccas of learning. For 
centuries, too, the rulers of Europe and their wealthiest courtiers and merchant 
princes, relied on Moorish physicians and surgeons to cure them of their 
various ailments. And they judged those roving medical specialists by their 



skills and not their color. Even after the Reconquista (the wresting of Spain 
from its Moorish conquerers), Christian rulers continued surreptitiously to 
invite Moorish scholars to their kingdoms, because of a profound respect for 
their knowledge and expertise. 

Moorish scientific and organizational abilities transformed their cities into 
extraordinarily advanced urban centers. Not only were their public and private 
buildings aesthetically pleasing but their architects and planners created cities 
the likes of which had never been seen before in Europe. Some historians 
assert that the Moors of Spain, unlike their nomadic kith and kin from the 
desert kingdoms, were essentially an urban people. But this statement is only 
a half-truth and needs to be qualified, for cities require a countryside capable 

of feeding large populations. , 

The Moors had been able to create a harmony in the rhythms of life in the 
city and in the countryside. They dotted the map of al-Andalus with their 
cities and towns, but they could only do this because the surrounding coun- 
tryside was kept fertile and productive — with advanced drainage and irrigation 
systems, reservoirs, aqueducts, sophisticated storage facilities and efficient 
marketing, transportation and trading networks. The Moors also brought the 
countryside into their cities with fantastic gardens, parks, lush inner courtyards 
and a constant supply of pure water. The gardens in Moorish cities, both 
public and private ones, were known as “paradises,” a fitting term with which 
to describe those exquisite botanical marvels. 

Different Moorish cities came to be known for their particular forte: 
Cordova— its libraries and collections; Seville — its music and musical in- 
struments; Toledo — a center of industry and learning; but all shared a common 
feature of highly sophisticated urban management and unbroken and seminal 
connections with the land. Moorish cities were noted for their public hospitals, 
public baths, lighted thoroughfares, hot and cold running water, magnificent 
religious monuments, the grandeur of their mosques, gardens with exotic 
plants and even more exotic birds, and beautifully designed fountains. (See 
figure 1.) 

Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), published a 7-volume history of the world m 
1284, entitled The Book of Examples and Collections from the Early and 
Subsequent Information Concerning the Days of Arabs, Non-Arabs, and 
Berbers.' 9 Ibn Khaldun was the first to develop the theory of the cyclical 
development of society wherein a given society flourishes for a time and then 
declines under the weight of the pomp, luxury and growing inefficiency. It 
was Ibn Khaldun who suggested that “the ideal framework for Islamic life is a 
holy city with a nomadic periphery, with the city representing the stronghold 
of learning and meditation and the nomadic hinterland guaranteeing the 
constant influx of fresh elements [people unspoiled by urban culture].” 20 In 
addition to being a historian, Ibn Khaldun became one of the fathers of the 
sciences of economics, anthropology, political science, and urban planning. 

Carew 257 

and his erudition was such that up to the present time, his birthday is 
celebrated by Islamic and non-Islamic scholars all over the world. In his lucid 
and persuasive writings, he formulated systems of city planning and dealt 
with problems of “air pollution, physical layout, zoning, education, and city 
support for arts and sciences....” 21 

Moorish sanitary engineers, city planners, doctors and public health officials 
understood that high public health standards could only be achieved when 
there was an educated and responsible citizenry. A great deal of attention, 
therefore, was paid to inculcating the idea that effective public health began 
with good individual habits of personal hygiene by rich and poor alike. The 
smallest Moorish villages, hamlets and towns had public baths. As the 
Reconquista progressed, however,. benighted Catholic priests had the public 
baths closed and the faithful wefe told that daily ablutions were sinful. In 
1568, Phillip “banned public baths until then found in the smallest of Moorish 
towns and villages. . .” [thus] 'delivering a body blow to Muslim tradition.” 22 

A succession of plagues and famines fell upon both the Spanish cities and 
countryside as the Reconquista progressed and the Moors were driven out. 
The countryside was then devastated by hidalgos and martial peasants, agri- 
cultural lands were denuded of food products and vast acreages were reserved 
for sheep and cattle rearing or left idle and uncultivated. The plagues that 
savaged Spanish and other European cities in the century after Columbus’ 
First Voyage were given ample opportunity to go on the rampage amongst 
populations encouraged by their prelates to live by the adage that ‘filthiness is 
next to godliness.’ Paradoxically, European historians blame these plagues on 
the syphilis that Spanish males allegedly caught from ‘Indian’ women. But 
blaming the victim, especially when ethnocide has ensured that the victim 
cannot speak back, is an intellectually dishonest pastime in which Eurocentric 
historians have indulged for centuries. As Richard Ford, a perceptive scholar 
tells us “Ablution and lustral purification formed an article of faith with the 
Jew and Moslem, with whom ‘cleanliness is godliness’ .... Ximenez, [who 
afterwards became a Cardinal] ... a shirtless Franciscan, induced Ferdinand 
and Isabella, at the conquest of Granada, to close and abolish the Moorish 
baths [and] .... Fire, not water, became the grand element of inquisitorial 
purification.” 23 

Even their most implacable Spanish enemies acknowledged that the Moors 
were superb agricultural scientists, for they had cultivated not only the fertile 
areas, but had brought the arts of ‘dry farming’ to the high, bleak mesas; 
reconstructed and improved the old Roman irrigation systems and introduced 
a variety of new crops like cereals, beans and peas of various types, olives, 
almonds, and vines — invaluable sources of protein and other indispensable 
nutrients. Here, for example, is an entry made by a Moorish official in the 
month of March 961. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 1. The Mosque of Cordova; red and white naves built by Abd al- 

Rahman I, 8th century (Source: Muslim Spain ; Its History and Culture 
(Chejne, p. 272a). 



Golden Age of the Moor Carew 

Fig trees are grafted in the manner called Tarqi’; the winter corn grows 
up; and most of the fig trees break into leaf ... the falcons of Valencia lay 
eggs . . . Sugar cane is planted. The first roses and lilies appear. In kitchen 
gardens, the beans begin to shoot . 24 

Other crops introduced by the Moors included a variety of herbs, the 
orange (which was first grown in Valencia, hence the term Valencia orange ) 
pomegranates, bananas, coconuts, maize and rice. Here, for example, is a 
poem by Mahbub the Grammarian, an 11th century poet, eulogizing a great 
water wheel in motion. These water wheels, which were introduced by the 
Moors, were invaluable sources of energy for irrigation, the grinding of grain, 
etc. (See figure 2.) 

She sobs and weeps her streams of sparkling water , 

She weeps, and the garden smiles with many a petal 
Of deepest red, of white and brilliant yellow; 

You’d say the smith made scoops of pearl, and not of metal ? 5 

The Moors had a respect for Nature that bordered on idolatry, while the 
Spanish felt that Nature was impregnated with hidden antagonistic forces that 
had to be conquered and exploited. The cosmology which conceived of 
Nature and all natural forces as being “threatening” was an intrinsic part of the 
Church’s teachings. Forests were invariably depicted as being dark and 
menacing, the home of wild beasts and evil spirits. Conversely, in the Moorish 
cosmology, the forest was a place of light and enchantment. As the Reconquista 
progressed, the Moorish love and respect for their environment was increas- 
ingly depicted by their Spanish conquerers as evidence of their being heretics, 
pagans and infidels. Centuries later, Garcia Lorca resurrected the creative 
vision of the Moors and gypsies of Andalusia in his poetry and plays. When 
he wrote about the ‘forests of my flesh, 7 he showed a profound understanding 
of the forgotten Moorish belief that forests were, in fact, the ‘lungs 7 of the 

At the zenith of Moorish power, al-Andalus, that land of many cities, 
attracted scholars from England, France, Germany, Italy, the rest of Europe, 
as well as from distant parts of the Muslim empire. After the Mongol conquests, 
too, al-Andalus benefitted from the intellectual cross-fertilization of Muslim 
scholars fleeing from the wrath of Ghengis Khan and his descendants. 

Many of the European scholars came to learn Arabic so that they could read 
and popularize the knowledge acquired in Moorish centers of learning amongst 
their own relatively backward people. The Moorish city of Toledo, which was 
reconquered in 1085, became a cornucopia of newly discovered learning for a 
benighted population of Europe beyond the Pyrenees, and Christian rulers, 
from Alphonso VII (1126-1157) onward encouraged the establishment of 
schools of translation and of Arabic/Oriental studies in order to ensure a 
steady flow of new scholarship into their kingdoms. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

It is intriguing that on the one hand there have been the racist and bigoted 
religious slanders directed at the Moors after the Fall of Granada in 1492. 
While on the other hand, there was the insatiable appetite of European 
scholars for Arabic works in mathematics, astronomy, physics, alchemy, 
natural sciences, and philosophy, not to speak of literature and music. Both 
Thomas Aquinas (1225—1274) and Dante (1265-1321), for example, were 
virulently anti-Islam and anti-Arab. Aquinas, however, constantly referred to 
Arab scholars and Arab thought with a profound respect, and Dante choose to 
put Muslim scholars, such as Salah al-Din, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn 
Rushd (Averroes), among the great thinkers of antiquity in his Divine Com- 
edy. 26 

The great Arab philosopher Ibn Rushd (known as “Averroes” in Europe) 
had perhaps the most widely acknowledged and profound effect on Western 
thought. Born and reared in Cordova in 1126 at the time of the Almoravids 
(the dark-skinned, Saharan Moors) Averroes was best known for his transla- 
tions of Aristotle. His name became so closely linked with Aristotilian 
philosophy that whole schools of philosophy were set up in Paris, Padua and 
Bologna to spread “Averroism.” 27 Besides philosophy, he was also extremely 
influential as a purveyor of new medical knowledge. In fact, Averroes was a 
renaissance scholar long before the Renaissance: he was a poet, scientist, 
philosopher, historian and mathematician. (See figure 3.) 

But Averroes might very well have lived and died in obscurity if it were not 
for two fortuitous circumstances: the patronage of the enlightened Moorish 
ruler Abu Ya’qub Yusuf and the enthusiastic support of the Spanish Jewish 
philosopher Musa Ibn Maymun (1135-1204)(also known as Maimonides). 28 
Thanks to Abu Ya’qub Yusuf, Averroes’ work was published in thirty-eight 
volumes. And thanks to the Spanish Jews and, in particular, Maimonides, 
who, like Averroes, was also born in Cordova, the first school of Averroism 
was established. The impact of Averroes philosophies was such that they 
continued to provoke debate throughout Europe for several centuries after his 

Much later, Cervantes, living astride the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 
the Spanish “Golden Age,” would die in poverty because of indifferent 
patrons. Despite his monumental contribution to the Spanish language, literature 
and culture, Cervantes was ignored by philistine aristocrats like the Archbishop 
of Toledo, the Count of Lemos and the Duke of Bejar whose patronage he had 
sought in vain. By contrast, during the succession of golden ages that Islam 
had inspired, geniuses like the Africans Ziryab and Ibn Khaldun, and the Arab 
Averroes, had unlimited resources placed at their disposal and were acclaimed 
and revered by highly educated and enlightened rulers. 

There can be no denying the fact that Moorish scholarship and Moorish 
culture as a whole, had an intellectual ripple-effect on Europe. They moved in 
concentric rings from centers of learning to the most backward areas of the 


Figure 3. A nobleman of the Gonzaga family. (See their son in Figure 4.) 




Golden Age of the Moor 

continent. Their geographers and mathematicians measured global distances 
accurately for the first time. Without the improved Moorish/Arab astrolabe, 
the lateen sail and the advances made by Arabs in navigation, astronomy and 
the nautical sciences in general, Columbus would have been incapable of 
acquiring the rudimentary and imperfect navigational skills that he used 
during his four voyages to the Americas. It is also true that the idea of sailing 
west in order to reach China and India would never have crystallized in a mind 
trapped in the thralldom of medieval superstition, the way Columbus mind 
was when he left his lowly birthplace outside of Genoa. 

Moorish sensibilities encouraged not only a flourishing of scholarly en- 
deavors, but also the broadening of humanistic expression in a Europe emerging 
from the throes of the Dark Ages. Moorish Spain became a cultural and 
intellectual Mecca where all the great manuscripts and learned texts were 
collected, translated and classified, and where scholars from far and wide 
could gather to peruse them. 

The creative and symbiotic relationship between oral and written poetry, 
song, music, rhythmic speech patterns and finally, prose, in Moorish Spain, 
provided the models that would subsequently lead to some of the finest 
literary works to appear on the European continent. The much touted Spanish 
siglo de oro (Golden Age), with its fecund output of literary and other creative 
works, is often depicted as a phenomenon that happened unto itself in a 
Hispanic cocoon. The truth, however, is that it had roots in the Moorish/ 
Jewish African cultures which remained buried deep in the Spanish psyche 
long after both Moors and Jews were cruelly expelled from Spain, and the 
Spanish and Portuguese who had been conquered for so many centuries by the 
Moors, had turned the tables and become the conquerors of the Moors not 
only in the Iberian Peninsula but also in their African homeland. Andalusian/ 
Moorish cultural influences exercised a profound influence on the writings of 
Cervantes (1547-1616), Spain’s greatest literary figure. And those Andalusian/ 
Moorish influences were further strengthened by Afro/Arabic cultural infusions 
acquired during the years he spent in North Africa as a prisoner of a Moorish 
ruler, who, because of Cervantes’ wit and creative intelligence — qualities that 
his well educated Moorish captor discerned and admired — wrongly assumed 
that he was worth a large ransom. 

It is ironic that, to this day, the Spanish in their homeland, and the mestizo 
(Hispanic, African and Amerindian racial mixtures) ruling elements in Latin 
America, continue to make derisory noises about the ‘purity of their blood’ in 
order to banish unconscious memories of ineradicable Moorish/Jewish/ African 
cultural and racial infusions. Regardless of skin color and feature, they are 
forever ready to choose the barbaric white Visigoths as ancestors rather than 
the dark-skinned and civilized Moors. 

The early non-secular writing in al-Andalus was of two basic types: a) 
scientific treatises and geographical, historical and ethnographical accounts, 


and b) Arabic poetry closely paralleling that of its Middle Eastern, Eastern 
and North African cultural relatives of the Islamic family. However, the 
music, the songs and the folk myths were always there throbbing like a pulse 
under the flesh of the society. From about the 10th century, as al-Andalus 
asserted its cultural independence, Moorish poetry began to take on a new and 
vibrant quality and two new types, the muwashshah and zajal, appeared.*- 9 In 
contrast to classical Arabic poetry, muwashshah and zajal drew their texts from 
a particularly al-Andalusian context, using not only the typology but also the 
indigenous linguistic and mythopoetic expression of its inhabitants. This 
particular quality of expression was likely the outgrowth of the intimate 
contact between the Arabic and Romance languages, out of which a kind of 
sparkling chemistry resulted. These very cultural catalytic agents that trans- 
formed the Islamic culture in Spalin — language, intellectual cross fertilization, 
religion and a collective and ineluctible creative imagination -pushed and 
prodded restless and contentious Christian kingdoms into uniting and finally 
overcoming the combined threat of Moorish rule and their own backwardness. 

The distinctions between muwashshah and zajal lay primarily in the choice 
of language. Muwashshah poetry still used classical Arabic, while zajal 
poetry relied almost entirely on a mix of colloquial Arabic and the local 
Romance dialects of al-Andalus. Nevertheless, both had a rhyming structure 
and subjects that were immediately accessible and appealing to listeners and, 
thus, were easily learned, retained and embellished upon. Needless to say, 
traditionalists of the time were extremely loathe to accept this uniquely 
Moorish poetic expression which refused to conform to time-honored Eastern 
poetic tradition. What they were unable to foresee was that the Moorish poetic 
vision which synthesized multi-cultural influences — Arab, African, Euro- 
pean— would inject new creative life into what was effectively a dying art. 
Classical Arabic poetry was well into its decline when the Moors, themselves 
the product of constant cultural cross fertilizations, created the basis for a new 
enlightenment in a region that the Vandal and Visigoth invasions had left 
culturally impoverished. 

Al-Andalusian music, songs and poetry - the three are invariably close as 
flesh to bone and sinew - flourished and were wildly popular not only among 
Moors, but throughout al-Andalus and beyond. After eight hundred years of 
Moorish presence on the peninsula, with Arabic-speaking Moors and a Ro 
mance-speaking populace sharing the same environment, Andalusians had 
developed various levels of bilingualism at many day-to-day levels. The 
plethora of Arabic infusions into the languages of the Iberian Peninsula and 
its neighbors attest to this. Through the long-standing Moorish presence in al- 
Andalus, Arabic provided Europe with words, such as: guitar (Arb: quintar, 
Sp: guitarra), lemon (Arb: laymun, Sp: limon) and algebra ( Arb: al-jabr, Sp: 
algebra), 30 not to speak of a whole slew of other mathematical, chemical, 
administrative, botanical and herbal terms. 31 Over time, the Muslim popula- 


Golden Age of the Moor 

tion of al-Andalus grew from its relatively small Arab and Moorish core with 
the addition of converted Arabic-speaking Christians, or muwallads , such that 
the former Christians (i.e. Muslim converts) made up the majority of the 

Ibn Guzman, an 11th century adventurer and poet who used both Arabic 
and the local Romance dialects in his work, was extremely popular and did 
much to spread the two forms throughout the region. As a distinction from the 
traditional courtly love song, those of Ibn Guzman were unabashedly sensual. 32 
The tninnesongs , or courtly love poems, that first appeared in Provence were 
no doubt inspired by the intimate contact between this region and Moorish 
Andalusia. Prince William of Aquitaine, the first known poet of courtly love 
to write in vulgar Latin, was literate in Arabic. And it is evident that Dante’s 
“Beatrice” stems from this Moorish contact. 33 

The Chanson de Roland , composed in the late 11th century, allegedly 
immortalized Charlemagne’s expedition against the Muslim-held stronghold 
of Sargossa in 778; however, the poem is filled with fantasy and wish 
fulfillment, in short, the poetic licence that the oral tradition accorded to 
troubadors of that age of awakening to the beauty of language and song. 
Another poetic record, the Arabic Poema del Cid, written around 1140, de- 
scribed the same occurrences; however, this poem was both elegant and 
historically accurate. Cervantes’ Don Quixote with its stories inside of stories, 
is impregnated with myths and folk legends from Andalusia. That immortal 
comic hero, Don Quixote de la Mancha, while on his deathbed, confessed that 
he was mesmerized by what he described as “those profane stories dealing 
with knight-errantry.” True enough, his books of chivalry went back to 
Amadis of Gaul, but the Moorish tales of courtly love, the songs, the legends 
which had touched Cervantes imagination in Andalusia, gave an immediacy 
to his tale of the mad and melancholy knight who tilted at windmills. (See 
figure 4.) 

Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was clearly influenced by Ibn Tufail’s (c. 1105— 
1185) work Hayy ibn Yagzan {Alive, son of Awake)? 4 This, plus the more 
current stories of shipwrecked sailors going the rounds in a new age of 
discovery and exploration enlivened and expanded Defoe’s imagination. The 
Hispanic/Moorish tradition of the picaresque novel had a profound influence 
on English writers like Fielding and Defoe. 

Besides poetry, al-Andalus offered Europe new kinds of songs, music, and 
dance. Poetry lends itself to musical expression and to the use of myths and 
the rhythms of speech of storytellers, and the Andalusians, through their 
contacts with the Persians and Indians, had synthesized new forms of expression 
which they then brought to their poetry. Ibn Quzman, a well-known Cordovan 
zajal poet of the time, made his living by travelling about the region reciting 
his poetry which he often accompanied with a lute, flute or drum. 35 Singing in 
the Andalusian style is still recognized today as a unique form of inspired 



Figure 4. African wife of the Gonzaga nobleman. (See his wife in Figure 5.) 


Golden Age of the Moor 



creative expression, and so is the flamengo dance. Those Andalusian tradi- 
tions have travelled to far corners of the former Spanish empire. Their 
rhythms still throb inside the culture of the gypsies and the poetry of Lorca. 
And Borges, the Argentinian writer, despite strident claims to being a de- 
scendant of Visigoths (only a partial truth), used to have his Andalusian 
secretary sing his prose back to him. 

But Moorish Spain also gave Europe new instruments with which to play 
the music and to accompany the songs and dances, such as: the lute (Arb: ud, 
Sp: laud) and the guitar ( Arb: qitar, Sp: guitarra). The most important figure 
in the spread of Moorish musical and poetic expression was Abu ’1-Hasan 
’Ali ibn-Nafi’ (789-857), who was more commonly known as “Ziryab” 
because of his dark complexion. In Arabic, “Ziryab’’ refers to a bird with 
black plummage. 36 

Ziryab was born in Mesopotamia, and brought up and educated in Baghdad. 
Originally a slave of the famous musician Ibrahim al-Mawsili, 37 some stories 
tell that Ziryab’s musical talents so impressed the Caliph Harun al-Rashid that 
al-Mawsili became jealous and tricked him into fleeing the country. Another 
side of the story is that this was a period of civil wars and Ziryab chose to take 
his family to safety. He and his family did flee to North Africa where he took 
up residence in the court of Ziyadat Allan I, in Qayrawan, one of the major 
Muslim cities in North Africa. His African origins and his prolonged sojourn 
in Africa undoubtedly played an important role in his musical development. 
So when he finally settled in Cordova in 822 at the invitation of al-Hakam I 
and, subsequently, at that of 'Abd al-Rahman II, a new creative flowering was 
to manifest itself. 'Abd al-Rahman II was so delighted to have Ziryab in 
Cordova that he gave him a furnished mansion, gifts and a stipend, including 
200 dinars per month for himself, 20 dinars to each of his four sons, a bonus of 
3,000 dinars per month, and 500-1,000 dinars for special religious festivals. 38 

Ziryab’s remarkable and varied accomplishments in the ninth century 
remind one of other Black artists, musicians, composers, writers who were to 
function with distinction in Europe in the face of almost insurmountable 
obstacles many centuries later. Ziryab was the forerunner of Soubise, the 
Chevalier St. Georges, the Chevalier Ira Aldridge, Alexander Dumas, Pushkin 
and others. His talents stretched from music through the introduction of social 
customs to botany and chemistry. He is credited with having known a thousand 
songs by heart, and having developed a new five-stringed lute, the predeces- 
sor of today’s guitar. He was the first to found a conservatory of music in 
Cordova, and his students were to spread his inspired teachings even further 
through their own contributions later in the century. 39 He introduced new dress- 
styles, using different colored garments to match the season. And he created 
hairstyles to go with the attire. He transformed eating habits and the ritual of 
serving meals by using elaborate decorations at the table and eating food in 
courses instead of having it all laid down on the table at the same time. He 

even made a contribution to dental hygiene by inventing a toothpaste that was 
both functional and pleasant to taste. And, it was Ziryab, the botanist, who 
introduced the asparagus to Europe. 40 

Accorded the highest favors in the Cordovan court of ‘Abd al-Rahman II, 41 
Ziryab was so prominent that his fortune was valued at over 300,000 dinars 
and his influence stretched from Cordova throughout the other provinces and 
across the Mediterranean to northern Africa. 42 

The story of Ziryab’s ascendance from slavery to unbelievable fame and 
fortune, underlines a fundamental difference between slavery in the Islamic 
world and slavery during the Columbian era. Like Aesop (Athiops the Ethio- 
pian) who lived in ancient pre-Islamic times, a Black slave endowed by 
Nature with genius, wit and good luck- could rise to unbelievable heights 
during his or her lifetime. Besides, Aesop and Ziryab both lived at a time 
when slavery was an equal opportunity institution and all races, colors and 
creeds were liable to end up as victims in Middle Eastern and other slave 
markets. In those slave markets, too, white slaves far outnumbered black 
ones, hence the word “slave” deriving from “Slav.” This tradition of a color- 
blind slavery was carried on for a while at the beginning of the Columbian era 
when white slaves were introduced into the Americas. But with the demand 
for labor to produce sugar mushrooming, the terms “African” and “slave” 
became synonymous in the New World. 

After the Reconquista , the tables were turned on the Muslims and they 
became the object of deep-seated Christian animosities. Though deprived of 
their language — Arabic — the Moors nevertheless developed an interesting 
form of protest: while they agreed to converse and express themselves in the 
local Spanish dialect, their literary expression continued to use Arabic letters. 
Thus was born aljamiado literature 43 which was to provide a particularly vital 
link between Moorish mythopoetic tradition and the newly-developing Ro- 
mance language literature. 

Moorish Spain’s infusions into European literary culture are legion and can 
be seen in the work of writers as varied as Cervantes, Lorca, Dante, Defoe, 
Fielding, Shakespeare, Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, among others. The- 
matic strains repeat themselves in European writing, such as the ascension of 
Muhammad to the seven heavens in Dante’s Divine Comedy , which some 
contend is a version of the Arabic legend of the Mi’raj. 44 Moorish expression 
provided the style and format for the picaresque novel (a format with a rogue 
or eccentric anti-hero as the central character), as seen in the work of English 
writers like Defoe and Fielding who were profoundly influenced by the 
writings spilling over from the Spanish Golden Age. Moorish cultural infusions 
can also be seen in the subject matter or objects of concern expressed in work, 
such as Shakespeare’s Othello , Merchant of Venice or Titus Andronicus, or the 
famed French Chanson de Roland. 

Shakespeare, like many of his contemporaries in 16th century London, had 


Golden Age of the Moor 



easy access to writings and firsthand accounts of the splendors of Moorish 
cities and the wealth, nobility, valor and civilized accomplishments of Moorish 
rulers. Queen Elizabeth the First, not to speak of the burgeoning and increas- 
ingly influential English mercantilist class, was keen on maintaining a healthy 
trade with what they called the “Barbary coast” (a North African littoral 
stretching from Morocco to Tunisia), and the Islamic world of the Mediter- 
ranean and Middle East in general. In addition to Shakespeare’s wealthy and 
powerful patron, the Earl of Leicester, the Bard from Stratford also had many 
merchant friends from whom he could milk information about Morocco and 
the Moors. Shakespeare also knew Master Roberts, Elizabeth’s ambassador 
to Morocco and Merzouk Rais, the Moroccan ambassador to London . 45 

W.H. Auden described Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, as one of 
the Bard’s ‘Unpleasant Plays’ and then he went on to add, ‘in the real world, 
no hatred is totally without justification, no love totally innocent.’ And, 
indeed, in The Merchant of Venice, one of those indifferent works that a great 
writer is occasionally guilty of penning, Shakespeare’s portrayal of the Prince 
of Morocco, stands out in glaring contrast to Shylock, his racist caricature of a 
Jew; and, in his last play, “The Tempest,” to Caliban, a deformed symbol of 
the colonized man. The dark-complexioned Prince of Morocco is noble, 
brave, immensely wealthy and powerful and he shares the same status as a 
suitor for Portia’s hand as the Prince of Aragon. Shylock, on the other hand, is 
too evil to be true. He is more of a metaphor for usery and venality than a 
human being. And, Caliban, a half-wit born in the imaginations of early 
European explorers and colonizers, is a racist symbol that Shakespeare bor- 

Shakespeare, a stay-at-home, endowed with the creative imagination of a 
genius, explored the most distant reaches of the earth, through the writings of 
others. But he also, inadvertently, echoed some of their prejudices. By debas- 
ing Shylock’s humanity, Shakespeare diminishes that of the Duke of Aragon, 
and the Prince of Morocco as well, and this trivializes both Portia and her 
high-born suitors. 

From the moment the Prince of Morocco makes his entrance with a flourish 
of cornets, he draws our attention to his African origins. Was this really 

Mis like me not for my complexion , 

The shadowed livery of the burnished sun, 

To whom I am a neighbour and near bred . 46 

And when he, the Prince, must pick one of three caskets, Portia tells him as 
though she is deferring to him grudgingly, 

If one of them contains my picture, Prince. 

If you choose that, then lam yours . 

The Moor chooses the wrong casket and bows out graciously, 

Portia, adieu . I have too grieved a heart 
To take a tedious leave ... 

And Portia, who is in love with Bassanio, declares with a sigh of relief, 

A gentle riddance. Draw the curtains. Go. 

Let all of his complexion choose me so. 

But Portia’s final comment on .the Prince of Aragon is more trenchant, and 
smacks of the malicious, 

Thus hath the candle singed the moth . 

O. these deliberate fools! When they do choose, 

They have the wisdom by their wit to lose. 

And, Nerissa, her equally cynical, malicious and worldly-wise waiting- 
gentlewoman observes, 

The ancient saying is no heresy. 

Hanging and wiving goes by destiny. 

“Hanging and wiving?” — the Renaissance was for men, European men, and 
not for women of any color. The urbane and civilized Moorish tolerance that 
had allowed women to win new freedoms for themselves, was now replaced 
by a crafty, and at times, murderous male intolerance; and daughters were 
chattel to be sold to the rich and powerful. The Prince of Morocco was Black, 
but he was also as much a power to be reckoned with as the white Prince of 
Aragon. With the advent of the Renaissance in Spain, women lost the consid- 
erable ground they had gained during centuries of enlightened Moorish rule. 
The writings of the Spanish Golden Age are littered with tales of wife murder. 
A husband, in order to save his “honor,” had the right to murder his wife if he 
suspected her of infidelity. But these murders were not simply individual acts 
inspired by psycho-pathological obsessions with issues of power and control 
over other human beings. They were upheld, condoned and encouraged by a 
male-dominated Church and State. So much for this “new age of enlighten- 
ment!” By contrast, as Flora Shaw points out, 

It is ... interesting to note that in the days of Mohammedan Spain, 
[Moorish] women were not confined, as in the East, to harems, but 
appeared freely in public and took their share in all the intellectual, 
literary, and even scientific movements of the day. Women held schools 
in some of the principal towns. There were women poets, historians and 



Golden Age of the Moor 

philosophers, as well as women surgeons and doctors .... An example of 
this was that the daughter and grandmother of the celebrated Moorish 
Pharmacist, Ibn Zohr, were both accomplished female doctors. 47 

So, not only were Moors, Jews, Indians, slaves of every color and colonial 
subjects in general, Calibanized, so were women, and after the Reconquista , 
they had to be dragged backwards into the future with the rest of the subject 

For a short span of time, the Moor was not demonized in Shakespeare’s 
England, the Jew was. But later, when the Atlantic slave trade had to be 
justified, the African became the victim of a strident demonology, The noble 
Moor was labelled a “Black-a-Moor” and even more contumely and racial 
hatred were heaped upon his head than that which the Jew had already known 
for centuries. But this created a glaring contradiction: how could the Black-a- 
Moor be equated with the Moors who had civilized Spain and Portugal, and 
acted as a vital connecting link between Europe’s past and its future? This 
contradiction was resolved by means of a racist double-think that became the 
hallmark of Eurocentric scholarship. Flying in the face of truth, these scholars 
proceeded to attribute everything good and noble to the white Moors and 
everything evil, malevolent and savage to the black Moors. This schizoid 
dialectic thus enabled those Eurocentric scholars to keep their racist cliches 
and their racial fantasies intact. An interesting example can be seen in the way 
that the famed “Lord of the Negroes of Guinea”, Mansa Musa (the Mandingo 
Muslim monarch who ruled Mali from 1307 to 1332), was depicted in the 
maps of the 14th and 15th centuries. (See figure 5.) 

The Moorish gold trade was well established and vital to the rulers of 
Europe from the 14th century onwards, hence cartographers, recognizing the 
importance of locating these crucial linkages, included Mansa Musa and his 
Malian kingdom on their maps. On the famed 1375 Catalan map drawn by 
Abraham Cresques of Majorca, Mansa Musa (also known as “Musa Mali”) 
was depicted as, “a monarch seated on a throne ... in royal robes and a crown, 
[holding] a sceptre in one hand and in the other a nugget of gold.” 48 Mansa Musa 
and his kingdom appeared on the maps over a period of nearly 200 years up 
through that produced by Martin Waldseemuller in 1516, even though Mansa 
Musa, himself, died in 1332. But, the European racist mind-set had great 
difficulty in reconciling its prejudicial world-view with the fact that this black 
African ruler was equal to, if not wealthier and more powerful than their own. 
Thus, over the years of map production, different cartographers tried to 
reconcile this difficulty by changing Mansa Musa’s image at first to conform 
more to the European phenotype and subsequently, to take away his trappings 
of power and prestige. Angelino Dulcert of Majora’s 1339 mappae-mundi, the 
first time that Mansa Musa appears, represented the monarch with a short, 
stubby beard — more closely approximating the ‘image’ of a Negro. Later 
cartographers, feeling uncomfortable that so important a ruler was not a 


Figure 5. Son of the Gonzaga family (Model for Othello). 



Golden Age of the Moor 



European, changed his beard to the long, flowing lines of a European mon- 
arch, although his skin remained dark. Finally, the cartographers’ resolution 
was to depict Mansa Musa as “seated on a throne, crowned and robed, but 
with the royal robe cut down to a brief cloak, and otherwise stark naked,” — a 
more ‘accurate’ representation in keeping with the prejudicial precepts of the 
Eurocentric mind. 

When the Chevalier Ira Aldridge, the famous nineteenth century African- 
American actor, played the part of Shylock in St. Petersburg and other 
European capitals, Aldridge 4 Africanized’ Shakespeare’s caricature of a Jew 
and portrayed Shylock as the tragic figure he was: an unfortunate and sensitive 
human being caught in a web of racist intrigues. He showed how there was a 
double standard by which Gentiles could practice and preach the new ethic of 
capitalism — profits above morality — but if a Jew (and one could add “Moor” 
in the same breath) tried to do the same thing, then his every thought, word 
and deed was excoriated and denounced as being usurious, immoral and un- 
Christian. Aldridge also deleted the last part of the play. The persecuted Jews 
of Czarist Russia presented Aldridge with a golden plaque saying that it was 
the first time that they had been portrayed with dignity in that prestigious St. 
Petersburg theatre. Aldridge, acting in the great theatres of Europe and 
England at a time when his people were still slaves in America, had shown 
that the pound of flesh which Shylock was demanding was a metaphor of the 
ultimate greed for profit that placed little value on human life, and, therefore, 
what Shylock was highlighting for his Gentile tormentors, was their own ethic 
of the slave market and its inhuman trade in pounds of flesh for profit. 

Between the racist caricatures of Shylock , the Jew, and Caliban , the per- 
manent black slave, were Shakespeare’s swarthy Moors, The Prince of Mo- 
rocco, Othello, and Aaron in Titus Andronicus, and herein lies the contradic- 
tion in the European mind. Shakespeare’s concept of the “Moor” was not 
without its imperfections, even though his portrayals of the Prince of Morocco 
and Othello might, at first, strike one as being authentic. The Prince, despite 
his eloquent avowals of love for Portia, bows out graciously when he opens 
the wrong casket. For him, a civilized sophisticate, this was all part of an 
urbane game of love. Although his color mattered to Portia, her color mattered 
little to him. As far as he was concerned she was highborn, well-bred and 
attractive. But as the Prince of a powerful State, the choices for him were wide 
and varied, and he could pick and choose the bride he wanted from women of 
any race, color or creed. It was class and wealth that mattered to him, not skin 

Othello, though, is a professional soldier and not an effete courtier. He 
came to decadent, worldly-wise Venice, with the charisma of an eagle-eyed, 
Black Almoravid General, and a contempt for the city that a field commander 
who spent most of his life campaigning, feels instinctively. The Prince, as an 
urbane city denizen who understood the intrigues that were spawned endlessly 

in his Royal Court circles, would have seen through the wiles of the likes of 
lago immediately and had him arrested and banished. But Othello, although 
he fell victim to lago’s vile intrigues, as an Almoravid General, would hardly 
have been a naive creature prone to give reign to blind, uncontrollable 
passions. He had, after all, fought against, outwitted and defeated clever foes, 
and he would thus have had to be endowed, not only with phenomenal 
physical courage, but also with a cold, calculated intelligence, cunning, good 
judgement and a superb sense of timing. (See figure 6.) 

Still, Othello was also an uprooted African man, and in his tragic encounter 
with Desdemona, he was re-living the Antaeus legend -the further he was 
removed from the smell of his earth and the dreams of his people, the weaker, 
more confused and vulnerable he became. This invincible general on the 
battlefield is, therefore, brought'down by a tawdry intriguer. Shakespeare, 
endowed with an inner ear for the winds of change blowing across Renaissance 
Europe, created through his Othello, an archetypal symbol of a noble African 
who will be tricked and brought low by a clever European trickster. A cynic 
like the Prince of Morocco would have said of him, that he was too noble for 
his own good.’ But apart from other considerations, Othello is also the symbol 
of an uprooted man in a new age of rootless human beings, wanderers and 
adventurers. In Venice, his African persona diffuses itself and becomes the 
subject of reminiscences to entertain and enthrall Desdemona. He never once 
mentions the African woman who mothered him, and ignoring his mother, he 
becomes a man without a sense of place, bereft of country, family and clan. 
His final passionate outburst, then, is more an impotent rage against himself. 
He had tried to replace the loss of psychic roots and a psychic identity with his 
love for an ideal and not a flesh-and-blood woman, and he had failed. 

Cervantes, Spain’s Shakespeare, echoes the songs, and stories of al-Andalus, 
(Andalusia) the heartland of Moorish Spain, in his novels, poetry and plays. 
He had heard the living echoes of Moorish music in the Andalusian cante jondo, 
and in the saeta, the improvised and spontaneous “arrow song’ with sad 
wavering laments, and its poignant rhythms had entered his consciousness 
both in Algiers and at home in Spain. The tales of knight errantry and courtly 
love which obsess Don Quixote were filtered through nearly a millenium of 
the Moorish/Islamic experience. For, indeed “Throughout the Islamic world 
there were brotherhoods, that may be described as orders of knights, which 
were ... enriched by mysticism, as in the case of the Christian orders of 
knights. Their motto was the Arabic expression jutuwa [meaning] magna- 
nimity ... the chivalrous virtues of fearlessness, charity and generosity. 
L ’amor e il cuor gentil sono una coas — ‘ love and a generous heart are one and 
the same thing,’ ” said Dante. 49 

The distances Shakespeare covered in his lifetime between Stratford-on- 
Avon and London, were very short indeed, but the world of his imagination 
encompassed most of the globe. Cervantes, on the other hand, was a soldier of 


Golden Age of the Moor 



fortune, a King’s messenger, a purveyor to the fleet in Andalusia requisition- 
ing supplies for the Invincible Armada. He had also been a prisoner of the 
Moors in Algiers for five-and-a-half years, and an inmate of a debtor’s prison 
at home. He was a wanderer in an epoch of men without a sense of place, men 
who had cut themselves off from women, family, country and who lived in a 
world of dreams and the wildest fantasies. But for a trick of fate, Cervantes 
would have wandered even further and lost himself in the wide indifference of 
the Spanish Empire. Fortunately for us, his application for a job overseas as a 
colonial official was turned down. For had he been appointed, Don Quixote, 
the gently insane Knight of la Mancha, would, perhaps, never have been 

Othello, Columbus and Don Quixote are inexorably linked together. Othello 
was an African, an Almoravid, who had vaulted over the Pillars of Hercules 
and released Europe from the thralldom of its medieval backwardness. Othello 
was also an uprooted African genie springing out of Shakespeare’s magical 
literary lamp. But in shaping him into a character for the English stage, the 
Bard from Stratford had inadvertently de-Africanized Othello. He portrayed 
him as a man alone — no mother, father, no extended family — did he just fall 
upon the earth like a fragment from an asteroid? 

The three, Othello, Columbus, Don Quixote, were men without a sense of 
place. They were like that character in Greek mythology who was doomed to 
exist suspended between earth, sky and sea. These male archetypes of a 
rootless age, were men without the enfolding warmth, humanity, strength and 
wisdom of women. 

Deriding the idea of Columbus’ alleged love and devotion to Spain, Charles 
Duff wrote: 

Historians have attempted to show that Columbus loved Spain and that 
this country was his spiritual home. To this distraught fanatic a country 
meant about as much as family or marriage . . . and he . . . would have tried 
Spain, Italy or any country likely to support his project . 50 

And to Italy and Spain, one could add Portugal, England and France. This 
man Columbus was the archetype of the new being without a sense of place, 
one without roots in a speck of the earth that he could call his own. He, 
therefore, remains like a spectre to haunt us down the ages. But the label of 
‘rootlessness’ can be pinned with equal facility upon those other archetypes — 
Othello and Don Quixote — the one Black, the other white, but both doomed 
to live through epochs of homelessness. Caliban, another character created by 
Shakespeare, is the deformed and mentally retarded soul brother of The Prince 
of Morocco, Aaron and Othello. The defeat of the Moors deformed the 
European vision of Africa and Africans. A mutation in febrile and prejudiced 
European imaginations then proceeded to transform black princes into eter- 
nally craven slaves. A New Order of racist fantasies and the oppression of 
peoples of color had to be justified. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Poets, Shelley once declared, hold up mirrors in which societies can see 
themselves. The Moorish poets held up these mirrors for almost a millenium, 
and Europe, seeing herself, stirred and stumbled forward from the Middle 
Ages into the Renaissance. But once she, Europa , a continent named after a 
woman but dominated by men for millenia, had attained the ‘utmost rung’ of 
‘ambition’s ladder,’ she was forced by male chauvinists to turn her back (with 
apologies to Shakespeare): 

...unto the ladder 

Scorning the base degrees by which [she] did ascend.” 51 


1. Jan Read, The Moors in Spain and Portugal , Totowa, NJ: Rowman and 
Littlefield, 1975, p. 217. 

2. Jan Read, Op. Cit ., p. 201. 

3. Jan Read, Op. Cit., p. 219. 

4. Jan Read, Op. Cit., p. 218. 

5. Ibid., p. 100. 

6. Ibid. 

I. Kirpatrick Sale, The Conquest of Paradise, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990 

p. 18. 

8. The Arabic names and words are taken from various sources, many of which 
do not use the same phonetic representation for similar words. Written Arabic uses 
only consonants and the vowels must then be surmised from the context. This applies 
as well to some consonants, such as the hard ‘g\ ‘q\ and ‘k\ which are frequently 
used to represent the same sound. 

9. Jan Read, Op. Cit., p. 224. 

10. Ibid. 

II. Wayne B. Chandler, “The Moor: Light of Europe’s Dark Age,” in Van 
Sertima, ed., The African Presence in Early Europe, New Brunswick, NJ.: Transac- 
tion Books, 1985, p. 151. 

12. Ibid., p. 152. 

13. Jan Read, Op. Cit., p. 124. 

14. Anwar G. Chejne, Muslim Spain: Its History and Culture, Minneapolis: U. of 
Minnesota Press, 1974, p. 78. 

15. Jan Read, Op. Cit., p. 124. 

16. Ibid., p. 163. 

17. Titus Burckhardt, Moorish Culture in Spain, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972, 
p. 124. 

18. Anwar G. Chejne, Op. Cit., p. 69. 

19. Ibid., p. 274. 

20. M. A. Martin, “ ’ Abd ar-Rahman bin Muhammad bin Khaldun,” in John R. 
Hayes, ed., The Genius of Arab Civilization, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1978, p, 73. 

21. M. A. Martin, Op. Cit., p. 73. 

22. Jan Read, Op. Cit., p. 234. 

23. Jan Read, Ibid. 

24. Jan Read, Op. Cit., pp. 80-81. 

25. Ibid., p. 82. 



26. Anwar G. Chejne, Op. Cit, pp. 404-405. 

27. Jan Read, Op. Cit., pp. 187-179. 

28. Anwar G. Chejne, Op. Cit, pp. 329-333. 

29. Ibid., pp. 236-246. 

30. Ibid., p. 194. 

31. Jan Read, Op. Cit., p. 178. 

32. Titus Burckhardt, Op. Cit., p. 109. 

33. Ibid., pp. 87-88. f . . A , T , 

34. Rom Landau, The Arab Heritage of Western Civdization, NY: Arab Infor- 
mation Center, January, 1962, p. 68. 

35. Anwar G. Chejne, Op. Cit, pp. 241-242. 

36. Jan Read, Op. Cit, p. 65. 

37. Anwar G. Chejne, Op. Cit., pp. 372-374. 

38. Ibid., p. 373. 

39. Ibid., p. 393. 

40. Wayne B. Chandler, Op. Cit., p. 161. 

41. Titus Burckhardt, Op. Cit., p. 71. 

42. Anwar G. Chejne, Op. Cit., p. 372. 

43. Ibid., p. 166. 

44. Ibid., pp. 404-405. 

45. Landau, Op. Cit., pp. 72-73. , furI 

46. William Shakespeare. “Merchant of Venice,” in The Complete Works of Wil- 
liam Shakespeare, New York: Bantam Books, 1980, Act II, Scene 1, lines 1 - 
through Act II, Scene 9, lines 83, 34. 

47. Wayne B. Chandler, Op. Cit., p. 174, endnote 50. . 

48. E. W. Bovill, The Golden Trade of the Moors, London: Oxford University 

Press, 1958, p. 91. 

49. Titus Burckhardt, p. 109. 

50. Charles Duff, The Truth About Columbus, Random House, NY: 1936. 

51. William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar,” in Op. Cit., Act II, Scene 1, lines 25- 




(AL-ANDALUS, 71 1-1492 A.D.) 



Yusef Ali 

The artistic Spain of olden times thus becomes the central bond which 
ties ancient art to modern. The great musicians of Andalusia knew not 
only how to preserve their inherited art but also how to transform and 
renovate it by creating a popular form through which their compositions 
were broadcast, thus spreading all over Europe. There it still lives be- 
cause the people have loved it and adopted it. Europe therefore owes a 
debt of gratitude to the Andalusian Moors, who maintained and passed on 
a rich fund of music, a perennial spring to which all European composers 
have come to renew their inspiration, but without seeking its unknown 

Music in Ancient Arabia and Spain 
— Julian Ribera 

African music is usually perceived as being one-dimensional, primarily 
rhythmic in character and totally dominated by drums. Chernoff says: “If you 
ask people what African music is like, most will, with little hesitation and 
great confidence, tell you that African music is all drumming: Africans are 
famous for their drumming. It is exactly this mass impression that 
ethnomusicologists, those people who study music academically, love to 
correct. Anyone reasonably well informed about music-making in Africa will 
immediately react against such a naive notion by citing a wealth of musical 
instruments: xylophones flutes, harps, horns, bells.” 1 

A major reason for this erroneous perception is the way the Western world 
continually portrays the African musical expression. The images usually 
depicted in the typical Western interpretation have traditionally been of 
“natives” dancing with emotional abandon to the beat of “jungle drums.” 
During the 1940 and 50’s there were some dancers and choreographers such 
as Kathryn Dunham, Carmen de Lavallade and Geofrey Holder and others 
who presented musical performances with traditional African music and 
dance as a high musical art form; but this was not the norm. Today African 
music with drums and a variety of other African instruments with more 
positive images, have seen increasing popularity in Jazz, popular music, as 
well as traditional African musical performance in the West. 

The new movement in America, beginning in the sixties, by those of 

African descent, to embrace African history, literature, customs and cultural 
traditions has had significant impact. As a result, the focus on African studies 
in colleges and universities, the adaptation of African dress and hairstyles, 
musical performances on the national and international level, have brought 
renewed interest in the African continent. 

“By far the most sophisticated responses to the popular image of Africa in 
the New World,” says Okon Edet Uya “are the back to Africa movements, the 
Pan African movements and the new Black nationalism ... Whether it sur- 
faced as emigrationism of the eighteenth century or the new black nationalism 
of the 1960’s and 70’s, this sentiment reflected a confidence in the capacity of 
the African to create and control his own reality, unfettered by European 
imperialism and neocolonialism and the contaminating influences of Euro- 
pean culture.” 2 ■' 

But while, for many reasons, this may be seen as progress, still there are 
clouds of myths that have to be stripped away so that there can be a clearer 
view of the realities. When it comes to African music, for instance, rarely is 
the total African musical experience viewed in all of its broad and rich 

“For a Westerner to understand the artistry and purpose of an African 
musical event,” says Chernoff “it is necessary for him to sidestep his normal 
listening tendencies, slow down his aesthetic response, and glide past his 
initial judgement. Perhaps more than the novelty or the strangeness of the 
sounds, the different meaning of a music which is integrated into cultural 
activities presents difficulties to the Western listener and undermines his 
efforts to appreciate and understand African music.” 3 

But the problem is multi-layered and remain enormous. Centuries of 
misconception and prejudice has led to grave distortions. 

“Africa has for generations now been viewed through a web of myth so 
permissive and so glib,” says Bohannon “that understanding it becomes a 
twofold task: the task of clarifying the myth and the separate task of examin- 
ing whatever reality has been hidden behind it. Only as it is stated and told can 
the myth be stripped away. Only if the myth is stripped away can the reality of 
Africa emerge.” 4 

Exploring the Myths 

Musicologists generally classify musical instruments into four categories: 
(1) Idiophones — marimbas, xylophones, gongs, rattles, bells, clappers, cym- 
bals etc. (2) membranophones — drums with skin or membrane heads (3) 
Aerophones — flutes, whistles, pipes, trumpets and horns. (4) Chordophones — 
lutes, lyres, zithers, and harps. 

While many membranophones are made from the trunks of trees, still 
others are wood bound with a variety of wood sources and other material 


Golden Age of the Moor 

utilized today in Ghana and Kenya. Various skin covers are used, as Kebede 
says, “depending upon the geographic location and availability of the ani- 
mal”. 5 The prevalence of trees in the sub-saharan great forest regions obvi- 
ously allows easier access for the use of trees to construct membranophones. 
Once again we see the impact of geography on the use of musical instruments. 

“Drums covered with hide,” Frobenius points out, “are found throughout 
the whole of Africa, with the exception of its southernmost part the wooden 
drums, however, occur only in the Cargo Basin and in upper and lower 
Guines. The hide-covered drums are a development of the famous millet 
mortar, which points to East India. The civilization of the Mediterranean 
shores has similar drums made of clay, and related to those found in Persia 
and in prehistoric tombs of Germany. Now the wooden drums belong to the 
Malayo — Negrito elements of African culture. They reoccur in Melanesia and 
frequently in Polynesia. Their home obviously must be the same as that of the 
lofty bamboo cane, for these drums are developed from the bamboo. (1898: 
640-4 1) 6 

This is a clear illustration of how music and musical instruments can be 
used as effective tools for studying people in culture, very often showing how 
they live and where they live. 

North of the Sahara social and cultural factors impact on the use of 
Idiophones and Aerophones as the more dominant instruments. 7 

Another major misconception in regard to African Music is that the music 
of the Arabic speaking countries of the Maghrib (North Africa) Morocco, 
Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and the Sudan is not really African music. To understand 
why this misguided perception exists it is important to realize that the Maghrib 
is always viewed as separate from the southern region of the African continent. 
Although these countries are located in the northern region of the continent 
they are referred to as “a thin finger of Arabic or Islamic culture that extends 
from Egypt to the Atlantic.” “Our attention is firmly fixed on an East-West 
cultural Axis,” says Grame “to the near exclusion of the North-South one.” 8 

For instance, rare is the reference to Egypt in African studies. Ancient 
Egypt is universally recognized as one of the most important centers of world 
culture and leader in the fields of science, medicine and architecture. Its 
ancient music also spread and influenced the Eastern and Western worlds. 9 

Experiments in ancient Egypt with a music notation system and the estab- 
lishment of schools of music that taught vocal and instrumental performance 
made it among the first to do so. 10 

In the fourteenth century the exemplary sociologist Ibn Khaldun remarked, 
while commenting on scholarship and sedentary culture, “Today, no city has a 
more abundant sedentary culture than Cairo (Egypt). It is the mother of the 
world, the great center of Islam and the main spring of the sciences and the 
crafts.” 11 “The Egyptians of Plato’s time,” Malm has noted “were still pos- 
sessors of canted knowledge in both music practice and theory. Thus much 



that we credit to Pythagorus and other Greek music theorists may have deeper 
roots in Alexandria and the Nile valley. In addition, the legacy of ancient 
Egypt is found in the shapes, tunings, and playing styles of such folk instru- 
ments as the argul double clarinets in Egypt, the genibri of North Africa, the 
many endblown flutes of the near East, the hlam of the Wolofs, and the sistrums 
of the Ethiopian Copts and the ancient Greeks and Romans. 12 

Ancient Egyptian music has never been studied in an African context. 
Flowever, a study done by Sachs (cited in The Anthropology of Music by Alan 
Merriam) comments on the success of European musicologists in research on 
Egyptian musical instruments and antiquarianism. Sachs speaks of “the ex- 
treme aridity of the desert soil and the Egyptian belief in the magic power of 
painting and sculpture.” [This] aridity has preserved hundreds of instruments 
from decomposition and many .musical scenes are depicted on tomb walls. 
Egyptian art works are explained by short naive texts written between the 
human figures whenever an empty spot is left (Thus “he is playing the harp” 
or “he is on the flute”). Hence, we know the authentic names of practically all 
Egyptian instruments. 13 

The African-Spanish Connection 

Westerners have long been captivated by the music of Spain, its haunting 
melodies and fascinating rhythms. About ten years ago, I was led to investi- 
gate the subject in an effort to learn more about the music of Spain, about its 
history and development in connection with my studies of African music and 
Western Culture. I began to listen to music of traditional folk and classical 
Spanish music. After reviewing music ranging over a broad spectrum, I came 
across several recordings that particularly stimulated my interest. Among 
them was a recording by the legendary Miles Davis entitled Sketches of Spain, 
which included a variety of Spanish themes with a rendition of Rodrigo’s 
Concerto de Aranjuez. There was also another remarkable composition re- 
corded in the 60’s by the late great saxophonist John Coltrane entitled Ole\ 

The latter (Ole’) was more in the classical Jazz tradition whereas Davis’ 
“Sketches” with a large orchestra was a departure from the standard “straight 
ahead” Jazz form. Both of them, however, incorporated not only Jazz ele- 
ments, but with the use of modal incantations, ostinatos, African polyrhythms 
and extended improvisation, suggested a musical legacy and heritage much 
more ancient than that of Spain. 

Years later, in his autobiography, while reflecting on the character of 
the music he recorded on Sketches of Spain (1959), Miles Davis said: “The 
Black Moors were over there in Spain because Africans had conquered Spain 
a long time ago. In the Andalusian area you have a lot of African influence in 
the music, architecture and in the whole culture and a lot of blood in the 
people. So you had a black African thing up in the feeling of the music in the 
bag pipes and trumpets and drums.” 14 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Referring to a selection called Solea he says: “Solea is a basic form of 
flamenco. It’s a song about loneliness, about longing and lament. It’s close to 
the American black feeling in the blues. It comes from Andalusia so it’s 
African based/’ 15 

A Moorish civilization was on European soil from the eighth to the fif- 
teenth century, rivaling in its “passion for literature, art and science,” the 
Caliphate in the East. “The Moors organized that wonderful Kingdom of 
Cordova which was the Marvel of the Middle ages, and which, when all 
Europe was plunged in barbaric ignorance and strife, alone held the torch of 
learning and civilization bright and shining before the Western world.” 16 

Colleges and libraries at such cities as Cordova, Toledo, Seville and other 
towns, became world renowned with the College at Cordova attracting thou- 
sands of students. Says Farmer -“Material and intellectual wealth seemed to 
go hand in hand. The coffers of the sultan ’Abd al Rahman II (d. 961) 
brimmed over with twenty million pieces of gold, whilst the library of the 
sultan Al-Hakam II (d. 976) contained four hundred thousand books. This 
latter Monarch founded twenty-seven free schools in Cordova and paid the 
teachers from his own purse.” 17 

On Oriental Africa and Arabia 

Previously we discussed myths and misconceptions concerning the Maghrib 
and North African-Arabic speaking countries in general. Further clouding 
common perceptions are popular images -in literature, television and film- 
of peoples of the Maghrib, Oriental Africa and Arabia that depict only 
Caucasian types with the virtual exclusion of those clearly African or of 
obvious Africian heritage. 

What is an Arab? The Encyclopedia Britanica addresses this problem by 
saying, any person whose native language is Arabic ... In contemporary 
usage it includes major segments of the population of the Middle East and 
North Africa and in the Americas - about 100 million in 1970.” The Britanica, 
in reference to its affinity to Africa says: “Western Arabia formed part of the 
African land mass before a rift occurred in the earth’s crust as a result of 
which the Red Sea was formed and Africa and the Arabian Peninsula became 
separated. The southern half of the peninsula consequently has a greater 
affinity with the Somalia and Ethiopia regions of Africa than with Northern 
Arabia and the rest of Asia. Arabia is but an extension of Africa, according to 
J.A. Rogers, where Black people from the southwest and white, or nearly 
white, people from the Northwest met to mingle their cultures and their blood. 
Arabia in Muhammad’s time,” he continues “was, even as it now is, a mulatto 
land.” 18 

Professor John Hunwick, Professor of African History and Professor of 



History and Literature of Religion at Northwestern University, points out that 
the “native language of the largest numbers of Africans (100 million) is 
Arabic and that it has been used in Africa as a “language of Learning and 
communication “for more than 1300 years.” It arrived on the African Conti- 
nent with the Arab conquest of Egypt in the 7th century A.D. and mainly 
“through trade, and the preaching of Islam” reached other areas of the 
continent. He speaks of an Afro-Arab people, “united by a common tongue 
and by a common religion - Islam.” Hunwick says this was brought about in 
East Africa as a result of Arab traders who from the 9th century sailed to he 
coast of East Africa,” islands off the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania and on the 
main land from “Somalia to Mozambique.” The Arab merchants settled and 

thereafter took wives. . , 

He points out when “Nubian rulers (upper Egypt) accepted slam in the 
14th century it opened the door for “Islam and the Arabic language to 
penetrate far up the Nile valley and across the scrub and semi-desert into the 

Ce The Funji Kingdom of Simar on the Blue Nile (1504-1821) and the Dar 
Fur Sultanate (17th and 18th Centuries) used Arabic as the Officia court 
language. The same was so of the Turco-Egyptian rule in the Sudan (1821 
85). Hunwick cites over a million archival records stored in Su an s, a lona 
records office in Khartoum with all “chronicles of Sudanese history being in 
the Arabic Language, the official language of that African country 

North African merchants were responsible for the spread of the Arabic 
language and Islam in West Africa. The lure of Gold brought Arabs and 
Berber traders from Mauritania to “Ancient Ghana and from Algeria to the 
River Niger.” By the 1 1th century many rulers of the Sahelian Zone converted 
to Islam. During this time the Arabic language came into wide use m this area 
as evidenced “by Tomb Stones, records and other artifacts.” 

With the advance of the Almoravids later in the 11th century the use o 
Arabic and Islam was strengthened. Morocco and S P ai " ^ e 1 c0 ". c l uer t ed t ;" 
the North and their influence also increased in Ghana and Middle Niger to the 

South. Aro 

From the 13th-17th Century important African centers of commerce, Ara- 
bic studies and Islamic learning were established. They were Walata m 
southern Mauritania, Timbuktu in Mali, Agades in Niger and Kano, Katsina 
and Gazargamu in Nigeria. 

“These cities,” says Hunwick “became heirs to a tradition of Islamic 
scholarship mediated through the Arabic language which became, among t e 
Muslim communities of West Africa, the vehicle for literacy. Later, from the 
17th century a number of West African languages were to be written down in 
the Arabic script - notably Fulfulde, Hausa, Kanemba and Wolof-long be- 
fore the Latin script was introduced by European Missionaries and colonial 
powers. 19 (see figures 1, 2) 

Figure 1. A minaret of Kairouin University-Fez, Morocco. In the Tenth 
and Eleventh Century “those thirsty for knowledge came from Niger, the 
Congo, Tripoli, Tunis, Egypt Andalusia and Italy.” 

Figure 2. A typical student at Kairoun, 



Golden Age of the Moor 


“In ancient Arabia,” as J.A. Rogers points out “many of Prophet 
Muhammad’s first followers were African. Bilal, his second convert and most 
honored friend, was an Ethiopian (Abyssinia). And Zayd Ibn Harith, his third 
convert, whom he adopted as a son and who rose up to become one of the 
Prophets greatest generals was also an African. 20 

At the height of the glory of the Abbasids in the court of Haroun Al-Rashid, 
of Arabian Nights fame, was Ibrahim Al-Mahdi, one of the most renowned 
singers of that era.* He was also the half brother of the Caliph Rashid. Two 
Caliphs are said to have had African mothers — A1 Muktafi and Rashid. 21 

“When we speak of Arabian culture, we do not mean that its Fons et origo 
are claimed for the Arabs themselves or for Arabia, but simply that this 
culture arose under a polity that was Arabian, and that the language by which 
it was propagated was Arabic.” 22 

Music in Oriental Africa 

The most characteristic cultural tradition of the region referred to as 
Oriental Africa is Islamic music. 23 It extends over most of the areas of East 
Africa across the Mediterranean littoral, south through West Africa, to the 
edge of the Sahara. There are certain pre-Islamic cultural traditions that differ 
in how they respond musically to Islam, and they often coexist. In some areas, 
however, “among Blacks who moved across the Sahara to North Africa, the 
Islamic music is colored by indigenous elements.” 24 

Islamic influence in performances of African singers is usually identified 
with ornaments and “quick microtonal shakes,” mordents and tense vocal 
quality. 25 Other characteristics are identified by the use of a single drum 
accompanying a bowed-stringed instrument, such as the rebab. “A Moslem 
influence,” according to Malm “may be inferred if, when voices and instru- 
ments combine, the accompaniment is not the multiple drums or ostinatos on 
a melodic instrument as found in Central Africa.” Also characteristic of the 
Moslem influence is the use of single rhythmic lines instead of the polyrhythms 
usually identified with sub-Saharan Africa. 26 

As discussed earlier, ancient Egyptian ideas in the field of music were 
significant. Kebede points out that “Egyptians were one of the first to experi- 
ment with a system of musical notation. The development of music as a 
profession in ancient Egypt is significant in the study of African cultures in 
general. Schools of music were established that trained not only vocal and 
instrumental performance but also theory and chironomy — the Art of notation 
by means of gesture.” 27 

Of all the major influences that were to impact on the conquered Egyptian, 

^Editor’s Note: AI-Mahdi was more than just a renowned singer. On the death of his 
half-brother, Rashid, he became Caliph for a brief period, (see Drake, Black Folk Here 
and There , p. 122). 


| v m i i i i 

Figures 3 and 4. (Above) Berber dancers and musicians from Southern 
Morocco. (Below) Ramal Maia Mode, three versions. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

the most significant was the Islamic invasion in the seventh century A.D. 28 
Islamic cultural practices became firmly embedded and spread throughout 
Egypt and in Tunisia in the latter part of the seventh century. 

In Tunisia most of the Berbers who were the original inhabitants of that 
Country converted to Islam. 29 In Morocco, where the largest Berber popula- 
tion is found today, traditional forms of Berber music have become synony- 
mous with that culture, (see figures 3, 4) 

Ashenefe Kebede in Roots of Black Music refers to three categories of Pan- 
Islamic music: (1) traditional music, (2) classical music and (3) contemporary 
or urban music. 30 Traditional music is that which is performed by the common 
people rather then the professionally trained musician. Classical, says Kebede, 
refers to that genre of music and musical performance that has been devel- 
oped and advanced by specialized schools of music, transmitted to and 
performed by generations of professional musicians. The Andalusian Music 
of North Africa represents the kind of music found in this category; it is the 
music developed in Moorish Spain during the Middle Ages. 31 

In Morocco the black gnawa perform a large part of the traditional music. 
They are also found in Tunisia and are known among the Wolof people of 
Gambia as “griots.” Singers of religious songs or gasida songs, they are pro- 
fessional musicians and entertainers who accompany themselves on stringed 
instruments; and “integrate dance poetry and singing in their performance.” 32 
(see figures 5, 6) 

They descend from the black gnawa who came to Morocco from West 
Africa. Many of their song texts contain references to tribal and place-names 
in the Western Sudan and to their experiences in the diaspora. Their musical 
performances are known for their ritualistic healing and snake charming 
ceremonies. Women often participate during the ceremonies on bandir (the 
frame-drum). An instrument called ghaitu (shawm) is used during the snake 
charming ritual. 33 (see figures 7, 8, 9, 10) 

In the Wolof society there is a mixture of styles in the music. They sing 
praise songs in the North African tradition and this synthesis of styles may be 
found throughout the “fringes of the Saara.” 34 The musical traditions reflected 
in their narratives date back to the Moslem caravan routes as well as pre- 
Moslem Africa. 35 

Malm discusses the Wolofs of Senegal and Gambia and their similarities 
and differences in musical expression. They use both cylindrical and pot- 
shaped single-headed drums in groups to produce African polyrhythms for 
their secular dances, but when their holy man sings Moslem hymns (hasida), a 
small kettle-drum called a tabala is used, along with an iron beater; together, 
these produce simple single rhythms much more akin to the music of the rest 
of the Moslem world. 36 

Political organization among the Northern Tuareg societies was greatly 
affected by the Islamic influence. Evidence is seen in the title of Khalifa given 


to tribal deputies. This title is used by the Northern Tuareg and other groups. 
The most important political group is the drum group. Throughout most of 
Africa the drum is used as an insignia of Kings. Historians say the use of the 
drum in this way is “pre-Islamic in Africa,” and is restricted mainly to the 
“Erytrean Cultures.” Among the Tuareg the drum “constitutes the insignia of 
a Tuareg drum-chief and is known as ettebel.” 37 Derived from the Arabic word 
tobal y ettebel also constitutes the name used for “Tuareg drums” and “drums 
of chiefs” among the Western Moors, (see figure 1 1) 

The drums of the Tuareg chiefs are known as Kettle drums and are never 
used by persons other than the chiefs. 

Historians note that Kettle drums are usually found in Islamic North 
Africa, the Sudan, and North-East Africa. In regard to Kettle drums outside 
Africa, Sachs says “they occurfriainly in Islamic West Asia from where they 
were recently introduced to Europe and to India where terms for Kettle-drums 
are derived from Arabic.” 38 

One of the most important musical styles found in Oriental Africa is Zajal. 
It is a vocal form utilizing “classical poetry set to music.” The Muwashah is 
another form of vocal music performed in North Africa. Usually accompanied 
by musical instruments, the song text is most often based on rhythmic and 
melodic modes. Historians debate whether Zajal and Mawashah developed 
simultaneously or whether one derived from the other. 39 

Chejne describes Zajal and Muwashah this way. The Zajal often refers to 
that poetical composition in which a spoken Arabic dialect along with some 
non-Arabic expressions is used. As for the Muwashah, it is considered a more 
artistic production containing — except for the Kharyah or concluding verses — 
literary Arabic expressions only. 40 

The content of the verses of both are, for the most part, identical in form 
and content. They differ in the choice of language since the Muwashahat 
make use of classical Arabic whereas the Zajal make free use of colloquial 
Arabic and Spanish dialect. 41 

The most important contribution of this new form of poetry — the Zajal and 
Muwashahat was that they freed Al-Andalus from the formalism of classical 
poetry, traditional throughout North Africa and the Near East. It was sponta- 
neous and simple and at the same time akin to the personality and tempera- 
ment of the Andalusian 42 

The Nuba , an important North African musical form, “considered a classic 
by the scholars” — originally meant turn. Musicians used the word to express 
their turn or time to perform. Ribera says “from this earliest meaning of turn, 
the word Nuba came to imply the music which each artist executed, and even 
the weekly musical sessions held by certain Caliphs, and, because these latter 
were made up to turns of the various musicians it meant later the whole of the 
performance.” 43 The Nuba y which became very popular in Moorish Spain, is 
compared to the suite in European classical music. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 11. Tuareg musicians and dancers of Agadez, Ayr, in the Western 


The Nile Valley 

The Sudan is a vast country which borders on eight countries. Bordering on 
the Nile River it has three major ethnic group populations; they are Nubians, 
Mahass Shaiga, and Galien. Traditional vocal music is highly developed in 
the Northern area, while the Western region is known for a variety of songs 
and dances, usually performed by female vocalists. Similar musical perfor- 
mances are found in the West. Instruments used for accompaniment to vocal 
music include the Ethiopian Krar, the Al-Kaita (Shawm, also known as ghaitu 
in Morocco and Tunisia) and various small drums. The music of the Sudan 
combines “both oriental and sub-Saharan cultures. 44 (see figures 12, 13) 

Ethiopia, despite its Islamic influences, remains, as far as musical culture is 
concerned, a reflection of its dominant religious influence, Coptic Christian- 
ity. Although the Falasha Jewish tradition is clearly a major cultural influ- 
ence, and in the south we find musical expression exhibiting styles more 
typical of Sub-Saharan Africa, Christian Ethiopia remains the dominant 
musical influence. 45 

Kebede in his work Roots of Black Music refers to an “indigenous and truly 
African style of music,” one, he says, that cuts across oriental Africa from 
north to south and east to west. The Egyptian civilization was the cradle of 
music. Even the Greeks referred to Egypt as the source of their musicopedagogic 
ideas. Nearly 2500 years ago, before Arabia was known, Herodotus com- 
mented on the Egyptian achievement in the following manner: “there is no 
country that possesses so many wonders, nor any that has such a number of 
works which defy description.” 46 

Ancient Egyptian music, according to Kebede, is preserved today in the 
music found in the Coptic churches and is deeply rooted in the music charac- 
terized simply as Arabic. He points to the Axumite civilization at the Horn of 
Africa during pre-Islamic Arabia. He cites court and religious music that was 
highly developed and was part of a “noble heritage,” where members of the 
aristocracy were educated in the science of music. Today the Axumite legacy 
is preserved in the Hurhara music of Ethiopia. 47 

He also focuses on the music of the Berbers, the native inhabitants of North 
Africa, whose territory stretched from North to West Africa in prehistoric 
times. Although they migrated North with the advent of Islam their ancient 
music was still preserved. The Berber style, Grame points out “has nothing 
whatever to do with ‘Arab’ influence but probably represents an ancient 
African style. It has always astonished me that the “scholarly” community is 
resolutely unaware of the existence of a style of African music that stems out 
across the continent from roughly Ethiopia to the Atlas mountains.” 48 

According to these scholars and others who present data from ancient times 
to the present, there is substantial evidence of an indigenous musical style in 
that area. 49 (see figures 14-23) 



Golden Age of the Moor 



The Music of Ancient Arabia 

There is evidence of a South Arabian Kingdom with traces of a “high 
civilization,” as early as the second millenium before Christ. Having much in 
common with Babylonia and Assyria, it contributed culturally to Greece, 
including some of its alphabet. Writings have been found suggesting that, 
long before the sixth century A.D., music systems existed among the Arabs, 
Chaldeans, Minaeans, Sabeans, Nabateans and Palmyraens as well as the 
Lakmids and Ghassamids. In the seventh century the Arabs conquered Persia, 
at which time they were already in possession of a system of musical theory. 50 
Some scholars argue that the Arabs studied the system of the Persians. To this 
Farmer says: “To say that the Arabs had no system which they were able to 
reduce to theory, is not in accordance with facts. We have plenty of references 
to music and musicians in pre-Islamic times, and it is almost impossible to 
conceive that these people (to whom music was almost an absolute necessity), 
who could systematize their poetry as we see in the mu allagat, Hamassa and 
Mufaddaliyat, (famous poetry) were not able to systematize their music. 
Fortunately, Al-Farabi has preserved for us details of a pre-Islamic system in 
the scale of the tambural Baghdadi, which was arrived at by dividing a string 
into forty parts . . . While it was superseded by Pythagorean intonation in the 
cultured near East and Persia, as well as among the Arabs of Syria and Al- 
Hira, it subsisted in more remote corners of Al-Hja and Al-Yaman, and found 
its votaries even down to the tenth century A.D.” 51 

Virtually all western historians wrongly credit the Greeks as being the 
creators of the sciences. So it is not surprising that it is suggested here that the 
“intonation system” of Pythagoras, considered the father of “Western music 
theory,” superseded those of the East. But Farmer has shown that this is “the 
pan Grecian conceit.” 52 

Professor George G.M. James in The Stolen Legacy argues that, after 
Alexander the Great invaded Egypt, thousands of Greek scholars not only 
came to study at the feet of African-Egyptian teachers but ransacked the 
Libraries of Alexandria. Many famous Greek scholars, later given credit for 
Egyptian first discoveries in the fields of Philosophy and science, confiscated 
5,000 years of knowledge accumulated in the temples and libraries of Egypt.” 53 * 

Al-Hira was the literary centre of Arabia, “from whence poetry radiated to 
all parts of the peninsula.” Many suggest that since music was so closely 
allied to poetry it was equally favored among the Arabs. 54 This center most 
likely possessed a considerable musical culture, seeing that the famous Per- 
sian King, Barram Ghur (430-8) was sent to the Arab Lakmid court in that city 
to be educated, and here he was taught music among other Arabian accom- 

* Editor’s Note: The ‘Arabs’ were also to build upon this Afro-Egyptian legacy, 
although they assumed, since much of it had been translated into Greek, that they were 
merely transmitting, and extending upon, the Greek. 

Figures 12 and 13. Nubian musicians playing the flute and Oud (lute). 


Golden Age of the Moor 



plishments. 55 Farmer finds it strange that Persia should need to send students 
(their young sovereign himself) to study the “Arabian musical system.” It 
suggests that Persia was so lacking in professional musicians that they had to 
be imported, particularly since this was before the Arabs had conquered the 
Persians. 56 But scholars differ on this account. For instance, Ribera in Music 
of Ancient Arabia and Spain says that pre-Islamic poetry is considered classic 
among Arabs, but did not happen to be accompanied by music. 57 Says Ribera: 
“The musical historians tell us that, until the death of Muhammad, Arabic 
Songs were of so primitive a type that they did not even possess rhythmical 
elements, but were simply a kind of monotonous chanting with which the 
camel-drivers urged on their beasts during the desert voyages. Although we 
owe most of the early song-words to poets of the Arab tongue, the music was 
composed and executed by foreign musicians. The explanation is that the title 
of poet was considered an honor, while to be a musician was considered 
demeaning. 58 

Ibn Khaldun in the Muqaddima says that “musicians from Persia and 
Byzantium passing into Al-Higaz playing upon the lute (ud), pandore (tambur), 
and other instruments were responsible for the Arabs utilizing Persian and 
Byzantine melodies and adopting them for Arab poetry.” 59 

The specialist in oriental musicology, J.P.N. Land, makes it clear, however, 
that “the Persian and Byzantine importations did not supersede the national 
music, but were engrafted upon an Arabic root with a character of its own.” 60 

“Further, so far as extant treatises are concerned, the early Persian work on 
music dates from the twelfth century, whilst we have Arabic treatises on 
music which date from the ninth century, and we have evidence of works even 
dating from the eighth century.” 61 

Arabic music reached its zenith during the eighth and ninth centuries with 
documents still today existing of works by musicians whose chronicles “make 
a record unequaled perhaps by any European nation. 62 Al-Isfahani’s The Book 
of Songs describes in detail, the history, and chronology of the spread of 
Arabic music including singers and musicians. 63 The vast knowledge attrib- 
uted to Arab scholars which in turn was passed on to medieval Europe came 
as a result of the following.* 

In the seventh century the Arabs became masters of virtually half of the 
“then known civilized world,” and it was in Byzantium and Persia that 
“vestiges” of the literature of ancient Greece (and unacknowledged loans 
from Egypt)* was found and confiscated by the Arabs. 64 Greek books on sci- 
ence and Philosophy were gathered from the monasteries and libraries there. 
With the cultural and political stagnation of Byzantium and Persia that had 

* Editor ’s Note: Professor Ali uses the word Arab in this broad context to cover 
practically all Muslim peoples speaking Arabic. Also, as he has previously pointed 
out, and it needs to be re-emphasized, the Greek musical treatises are not simply the 
work of the Greeks. 

come about during that time, “if it had not been for the zeal of the Arabs in this 
direction, many of the works of ancient Greece would not have come down to 
us.” 65 By the eleventh century the Arabs were able to “translate from the 
Greek many musical treatises hitherto unknown to Western Europe.” In- 
cluded among these were Aristoxenos (“Harmonics” and “Rhythmics”), 
Aristotle (“problems”), Euclid (“Harmonics” and “Canon”), Ptolemy (“Har- 
monics”) and Nikomachos (“Harmonics”). 66 

As a consequence music was recognized as one of the courses of scientific 
study, as is found in the writings of Al-Kindi (d.c. 874), Al-Sarathsi (d. 899), 
the Banu Mosa (ninth century), Thabit ibn Qurra (d. 901), Muhammad Ibn 
Luga (d. 932), Al-Farabi (d. 950), the Ikhwan Al-Safa 5 (tenth century), 
Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Al-Khwarizmi (c. 980), Ibn Sina (also known as 
Avicenna (d. 1037) and Al-Husain Ibn Zaila (d. 1048). 67 

Although music continued to exert influence with the advent of Islam 
(Seventh century) a major change occurred in its “social function.” This was 
due to religious conservatism. 68 Traditions citing music as unlawful include: 
“Iblis (Satan) was the first who wailed and the first who sang” . . . “no one lifts 
up his voice in singing, but Allah sends two devils to his shoulders.” “Music 
and singing cause hypocrisy to grow in the heart as water makes corn grow.” 
Another proclaims that songs sung by women along with stringed instruments 
are apocalyptic and certainly a vehicle by which man is seduced by Satan. 69 
Conversely, there are religious traditions condoning music. One example 
should suffice: “Allah has not sent a prophet except with a beautiful voice.” 70 

Nevertheless, music was considered undesirable by the law-makers, and 
sanctions were imposed on the singers and players. Muslim authors soon 
began to seek out ways to reconcile the contradictory situation. Among them 
were Ibn AM’Rabbihi of Cordova and Ibn Khaldun of Tunis, who wrote on 
the negative and the positive. 71 

The most celebrated singer of the early Islamic period was Tueis (also 
Tuwais). He is said to be the one who introduced rhythm into Arabic music. 
He accompanied himself with tambourine on songs in the hezej and ramel 
rhythms. Other notable musicians of this time were Addolal, Hit, Saib Khater, 
Nashet. As the teacher of Ibn Suraj and Mabed “Nashet a Persian had great 
influence among Arab musicians. Ibn Mosayeh was the singer who introduced 
the greatest number of new melodies. Ibn Suraj was one of the greatest of the 
founders of Arabic music. 72 

A story is related regarding the singers Ibn Suraj, Al-Garid and Mabed. It is 
said that an Emir visiting Mecca when the three were there wanted to banish 
all singers. Angry at the ruling the singers gave a public concert. Mabed began 
to sing, and stirred the audience profoundly. Next Al-Garid sang, and there 
was a general lament. At last came Ibn Suraj, who stirred up such a tumult that 
the whole city caught the contagion, and hastened to the Emir to have the 
order revoked.” 73 

Golden Age of the Moor 



Figure 14. Darabukkeh. 

Figure 15. Tombak or darbuka. 

Figure 16. (a) Tar (Tambourine); (b) Sagat (Castinets). 
Musical instruments of Oriental Africa and Arabia. 

The women singers who were the most distinguished were Izato-l-mila and 
Jamila. The former was given her name because of her graceful gestures and 
movement in walking, and was said to be very beautiful with amicable 
manners, graceful conversation and great elegance of style in her expres- 
sion . 74 

Three other musicians should be mentioned among “the great generation of 
artists who laid the foundation of Arabian song/’ They are Ibn Moris, Mabed, 
and Malik. Ibn Moris, a disciple of Ibn Masajeh, was the first to set pairs of 
verses to music. It was soon copied by those musicians that followed him . 75 
The renowned Mabed, an African, was a pupil of Saib Khater and Nashet. He 
was a composer and great singer. He was a brilliant teacher who trained many 
famous singers. 

Mecca and Medina were th& musical centers and there were no singers of 
great fame found elsewhere. “The first artists flourished in the regions about 
Mecca and Medina because in these cities dwelt the Arabian families of 
wealth and lineage, who mustered there the sumptuory arts and other ele- 
ments of culture belonging to their conquered neighbors ... Thus Arabic 
music was born not by spontaneous generation nor by lyric exaltation of 
individuals ... The melodic material was drawn from ancient civilizations, 
and was selected according to popular taste and presented by intelligent 
professionals .” 76 

Bilal The Abyssinian 

A historic figure with a magnificent singing voice emerged during the time 
of Prophet Muhammad, whose place in history would forever be endeared 
among Muslims. His name is Bilal Ibn Rabah, the first caller (mu-athen) to 
prayer in Islam. Born in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) he was a former slave. But 
Omar Ibn Al-Khattib, the second Caliph in Islam, the leader responsible for 
“completely destroying the throne of Persia and reduced to shambles the 
foundation of the Byzantium empire, described Bilal as “our master.” To 
Muslims his name personifies endurance, sacrifice and determination.” Ac- 
cording to Wayne Chandler, “Bilal was the prophet’s closest friend, who in 
the hereafter was chosen by the prophet to protect him .” 77 It was the voice of 
Bilal that was used to call the “Faithful” to prayer. 

Bilal had been a slave to Umayyah Ibn Khalaf and, having been born in 
Mecca to a slave mother, would probably have remained a slave. But upon 
hearing of Muhammad and the new religion (Islam) he professed desire to 
hear more about Muhammad and the “revolutionary qualities of this new 
religion” (Justice and Equality). When his Master (of the Quraish leadership) 
heard he had embraced Islam, “he was savagely beaten” in an effort to force 
him to abandon it. Bilal was taken to the desert, laid naked upon burning 
stones and covered with a large rock which was carried by several men. He 

was told to renounce the “one God” (Allah) and mention the idols Al-Laath 
and Al-Uzzaa. 

Repeatedly asked to deny his newly found religion Bilal only uttered 
Ahad— Ahad — (God is one). In the evening he was led by children through 
the streets of Mecca with a rope around his neck, then taken back at night so 
they could “bargain with him.” Lasting for days, the torture only brought the 
same words to the mouth of Bilal “Ahad ... Ahad.” When Prophet 
Muhammad’s closest companion, Abu Bakr (first Caliph of Islam) heard of 
this, he went to Umayyah and paid him a large sum for his release. Ali 
Baghdadi, who narrates the story of Bilal’s life, tells us how Muhammad 
was very pleased to see Bilal free for the first time in his life. After the 
migration of the messenger and his followers to Al-Madinah he asked Bilal to 
be the first mu-athen in Islam, whose duty was to call the faithful to prayer 
five times daily. 

When the War broke out between the Muslims and Quraish, Bilal took part 
in this first battle in Islam, the battle of Badr. In Bilal’s honor, Prophet 
Muhammad chose Ahad ... Ahad as the slogan of this great battle. Together 
with Muhammad, Bilal participated in all battles in defense of Islam. When 
Muhammad and 10,000 Muslims marched into Mecca eight years later as 
victors, the prophet, accompanied by Bilal and other dedicated companions, 
went to Al-Ka’abah, the Holy Temple built by Abraham, and destroyed all the 
idols. Bilal climbed the wall of Al-Ka’abah, the most sacred shrine in Islam, 
and with a beautiful and solemn voice he called the faithful to prayers. 
Thousands of Muslims repeated after Bilal. “God is the Greatest ...” 

Upon the death of Muhammad, Bilal made a request of the Caliph (Abu 
Bakr) to allow him to continue to “struggle in the path of Allah.” But Abu 
Bakr wanted Bilal to remain in Medina and continue to call prayer. Bilal 
replied: “If you freed me to become your own slave let it be so. However, if 
you freed me for the sake Allah, let me go to him.” His wishes were granted 
and he joined the “Soldiers of Allah” whose mission at that time was to 
liberate Syria from Byzantine oppression and domination. Bilal made his 
final call to prayer when he visited Omar (the second Caliph of Islam) in 
Syria. He later died in the city of Damascus, fulfilling the promise Muhammad 
made, that he was “a man of paradise.” It is said that Bilal had longed for the 
day when he could join the Prophet Muhammad in the House of Eternity. 78 

The Classic School 

The musicians who most personified the “classic spirit of Arabic music” of 
that time were Ibrahim Al-Mosuli and his son Ishak. 79 They were the most 
renowned musicians in the court of Harun al-Rashid. Born of a Noble Persian 
family in Kufa in 740 A.D. (125 of the Hegira) Ibrahim lived for a time in 
Mosul (from which he took his name). In his early days he travelled “about 



Golden Age of the Moor 

the most distant countries and mastered Persian and Arabic song. He gath- 
ered popular songs in the town of Medina, says Ribera and sought information 
about old Arabic music throughout the Hejaz through conversation with aged 
persons, thus acquiring such universal technical knowledge that there was no 
type of music which he did not know and utilize.” 80 It is said that each of the 
older singers had only specialized in one style, “one in Allegro, another in 
slow movements.” But Ibrahim Al-Mosuli, his son Ishak, and Ibn Suruj used 
all the styles; and they were “the only ones.” Ibrahim’s compositions were 
said to number nine hundred: “three hundred of superior merit; three hundred 
of average value, like those of ordinary composers; and three hundred of little 
worth.” 81 

According to Agani — “one was so outstanding as to be comparable only 
with the three best works of earlier times: one by Hakam, one by Felih, and 
the third by Sayat.” 82 

Ibrahim Al-Mosuli followed strict rules and standards of musical composi- 
tion; and as such was an “exemplar of classic taste. Like all serious musi- 
cians he did not hesitate to criticize personal liberty on the part of the 
“executant who deviated from these rules.” 83 

An example is given of his masterful musicianship, keenness of ear, and 
scrupulous tuning. When the singer Ibn Jami paid a visit to Ibrahim one day, 
thirty female musicians were brought out to entertain him. They sang, accom- 
panying themselves in one mode only. “Ibn Jami noticed that among all the 
lutes (Al-oud), one string was out of tune. Ibrahim, noting it also, said to the 
girl with the ill-tuned lute: “Tighten the second string of your lute.” She 
complied, and thereafter all went well “showing that, while Ibn Jami could 
ascertain that one string was off pitch, Ibrahim could detect the exact string. 

Ibrahim was a teacher of many pupils, among whom was his son Ishak. 
Many musicians studied with him and received the highest prices in the 
market when they had received a thorough training from Ibrahim; as a 
consequence he amassed fabulous wealth counted by millions of silver coins. 85 

Ishak, his son, did not have the voice or other qualifications of his father but 
excelled in “musical erudition and technical knowledge.” Like his father, his 
technical knowledge did not come from books but was derived from observa- 
tion, experience, and “direct investigation of music as it was then per- 
formed.” 86 He had not only great knowledge of music. He knew the old songs, 
from those of Tueis or, with the ability to distinguish all the melodies and 
artists “better than anyone else.” 87 One historian describes Ishak as one of the 
greatest musicians in the annals of Arabian music. 88 He was a pupil, not only 
of his father but two other famous musicians of that time, his uncle Zazal and 
Atika Bint Shudha. In addition to being a great musician, a poet, litterateur, 
philologist, and jurisconsult, 89 he had one of Baghdad’s largest libraries said 
to be “rich in words on Arabic philology from Ishak’s own hand.” Some forty 
works were written by him, and seventeen of these concerned music or 


musicians.” 90 Although none of these “later works” have been discovered, 
according to Yahya ibn Ali (d. 912) “Ishak was the most learned of the people 
of his time in music, and the most accomplished of them in all its branches, 
and the best performer on the oud and most of the other instruments of mu- 
sic.” 91 

Unlike earlier critics, who classified melodies solely according to rhythm, 
he went into more detail of tune and tempo and also into the determination of 
the fundamental notes of the accompanying instrument, what we would call 
today the key or “harmonic basis of the accompaniment with its possible 
combinations.” 92 He is said to be the one who introduced the use of falsetto, or 
male soprano register. It proved to be “best adapted to his voice,” for although 
his artistic skill was unmatched his natural voice was said to be inferior. Of 
course, because of this, his farts admired his own songs more when they were 
sung by other musicians. 93 

An illustration accompanying this essay shows Ibrahim Al-Massuli play- 
ing on a falsely tuned lute “without the listeners noting the fact.” This 
demonstrates something which all who have musical experience recognize. 
And that is that musicians “using equal temperament” and familiar with 
transposing, can make a transition into “any required key.” So the lute 
players, like the pianists of today, “due to tempered pitch,” transposed, used 
sharps and flats, realizing that “any note may become the keynote of a 
diatonic scale.” 94 

Naumann says: Ambros asserts that the Arabians had no knowledge of 
harmony. This is an assertion to which I cannot assent, great as my respect is 
for the judgement of so learned a musical historian. Such an opinion would 
seem to be contradicted by the favorite practice of Oriental, and especially the 
followers of Islam, viz., that of adding a kind of pedal bass to their melodies. 
This practice is still prevalent in the East. Besides, their accompanying 
instruments could not have been used merely for strengthening the melody, 
but evidently had, and have still the object of sustaining the melody by chords, 
arpeggio or otherwise. 95 

Historians debate over the character of early Arabic music, in terms of its 
harmony, rhythm and expression. Some believe it was always in unison, “but 
there are strong indications that it was already harmonic.” 96 Use of instru- 
ments similar to organ and bagpipes that sounded simultaneously suggests 
they must have been “harmonically related.” Songs of this period are de- 
scribed by historians using “Al-Mosuli’s classifications,” that is, “according 
to their technical attributes”: (1) rhythm (2) fingering (“position on the neck 
of the lute”) (3) “alternating use of principal note in combination with a 
secondary one.” We can put this last classification in better perspective by 
Proposing that a mode or scale was used harmonically. And that it “indicated 
the use of fundamental notes of what we now call chords.” 97 

According to Ribera, “The scale then in use also inclines one toward a 



Golden Age of the Moor 

belief in the existence of harmony in Arab song. This scale was never 
explained by the learned as being composed of tetrachords or hexachords but 
simply as octaves, and this division is essentially harmonic.” 98 

Abu Hasan Ali Bin Nafi (Ziryab) 

The Cornerstone of Spanish Musical Art and the 
Andalusian Lyric metric system 

Generally the “musical traditions of the East” passed on to the west and, in 
spite of the conservatism of religious scholars, became part of Andalusian 
culture. 99 At first, religious law imposed sanctions on music and musicians 
with penalties for selling books on laments about songs. According to these 
same laws in the books of Spanish Moslem justice, it was forbidden to rent a 
house if flute or bandola playing was intended within. The public authorities 
were to punish infractions of the religious law, and zealous judges complied 
with the law to the extent of ordering the destruction of instruments found 
being carried through the streets. However, in the end, just as in the Orient, 
musical art survived and spread through Al-Andalus. 100 

The first Omayyad ruler Abdu’r-Rahman I kept singers in his court. 
Among the outstanding singers were Ajfa brought from the Orient. Al-Hakam 
I, during his rulership also brought to his court many celebrated singers 
including “Alon and Zarcon who sang with great art and whom he paid 
lavishly.” 101 Male and female singers arrived from the east during the reign of 
Hakam I. Others included Alwan and Fadl A1 Madinah, who were born in A1 
Andalus and received musical training in Baghdad and Medina. We may add 
Qamar, famous for composing melodies at the court of Seville. 102 

Abu’l-Walid from Alexandria in Egypt was brought to the court of Abdu’r- 
Rahman II. Described as young and elegant and one who “shone at the court 
of the Emir,” it was said of him that he would have dedicated himself to music 
if he had not taken the advice of Isa bin Shahid, Chancellor of Abdu’r- 
Rahman II, who counseled him to leave this profession so as not to be 
hindered in rising politically. 103 

But the singer whose fame eclipsed all others was the distinguished musi- 
cian Ziryab who arrived in Al-Andalus in 822 A.D. Born in Mesopotamia in 
789 A.D. his real name was Abu-l-Hasan ‘Ali Ibn Nafi but he was known as 
Ziryab (the Blackbird). 104 It was an appellation given to him by the people of 
his native town because of his black complexion, the eloquence and suavity of 
his speech and the amiability of his temper. (Zaryab being the name for a very 
rare and valuable bird of dark plumage which is to be found in that country, 
and has a very sweet note; also Zaryab, Zeryab, or Zanyafr*). 105 . 

* Editor’s Note • Readers should not be confused by the different spellings of this black 
musician. Ali spells him as “Ziryab” but since he is quoting from Al-Makkan, whose 
spelling is “Zaryab,” his two spellings are interchangeable. 


The occasion of Ziryab’s (or Zaryab) coming to Andalus is related by AI- 
Makkari. Zaryab was the pupil of Ishak of Maussal. Ishak was the famous 
musician, as you will remember, who lived in Baghdad during the reign of 
Harun Al-Rashid. Under this celebrated professor, Zaryab learnt music and 
singing. He soon made such progress and displayed so fine a voice, united to 
a good ear and exquisite taste, that he shortly surpassed his own master, and 
all the people of Baghdad gave his songs preference over those of Ishak. 
However, his master seemed not to be aware of his pupil’s superiority until 
the Caliph sent for him and asked him to introduce him to a fine singer and 
good performer who was not yet known. Ishak mentioned Zaryab, his pupil, 
and spoke of him in these terms: ‘He is a freeman of thy family; I once heard 
him sing in so tender a strain, and with so much soul, that I did not hesitate to 
take him with me, and make him my disciple; he has since very much 
improved, and whatever he knows he owes to me, who found out his talents, 
and brought them to light: so great has been his improvement under my 
discipline, that I have predicted that he will live to be a famous musician.’ 
“That is the very man I want,” said the Caliph “bring him here to me and I 
will tell him what I want him for.” Zaryab accordingly appeared before Al- 
rashid, who was very much struck with the sweet melody of his voice even in 
conversation and his excellent pronunciation. “What are thy performances in 
music?” the Caliph asked “Dost thou know how to sing a song?” 

“Yes, 0 prince of the believers!” answered Zaryab. “I approve of what 
people like: but I like many songs which the people do not approve of. I feel 
confident, however, that thou wilt like them, and if thou give me leave to sing 
thee one which I have reserved for thee, and which no ears have ever yet 
heard, I am sure thou wilt be pleased.” Immediately Ishak’s lute was sent for 
but when this was presented to him Zaryab said, “Pardon me, 0 prince of the 
believers! but I have a lute of my own hands, and finished according to my 
method, and I never play any other instrument; if thou allow me I will send for 
it; it will be found at the door of thy palace.” 

This request being readily complied with, Zaryab’s own lute was produced. 
But no sooner did Al-rashid cast his eyes on the instrument, than, seeing it 
entirely like that which Zaryab had refused, he could not help remarking, 
“What made thee refuse to play on thy master’s lute?” 

Please your highness,” replied Zaryab, “had the prince of the believers 
desired me to sing one of my master’s songs I would have made use of his 
instrument, but since it was my lord’s pleasure that I should sing one of my 
own composition I had no choice but to play on my own lute.” 

What difference is there? asked Al-rashid, “between thy instrument and 
thy master’s? For me, I see none: they seem to me perfectly alike.” 

“So they are, in appearance,” replied Zaryab, “but they are very different in 
voice; for although mine is equal in size, and made of the same wood, yet the 
weight of it is greater by nearly one-third, and the strings are made of silk, not 



Golden Age of the Moor AH 

spun with hot water, while the second, the third, and the fourth strings are 
made of the entrails of a young lion, which are known to be far superior to 
those of any other animal in point of strength, deepness of tone, and clearness 
of sound; besides, they will bear much longer pulsation without being injured, 
and are not so easily affected by the changes of temperature.” Al-rashid was 
delighted with Zaryab’s explanation of his instrument; he ordered him to sing, 
and, having tuned his instrument, Zaryab tried it, and began the following 

u O thou fortunate king , born under a happy star! men come to thee 
morning and evening .” No sooner had Zaryab finished this first verse than he 
was interrupted by Al-rashid, who began to repeat the air, and said to Ishak 
“By Allah! were it not that I consider thee a veracious man, and that I believe 
that the talents of this youth were entirely unknown to thee; were it not for his 
protestations that thou has never heard this song from him. I would have thee 
punished immediately for not acquainting me with his abilities.” 

Upon hearing these utterances from the Caliph, Ishak subdued by envy, 
regretted ever having mentioned the name of his pupil. He soon summoned 
Ziryab and is reported to have said to him: “O Abu-l-hasan! hear my words. 
Envy is one of the basest vices, and yet one of the most common in this world, 
and principally among people following the same profession. It is in vain that 
men struggle against it; they never can conquer it. I cannot but confess that I 
am myself the victim of its attacks. I feel envious of thy talents, and the high 
estimation in which thou art held by the Khalif; and I see no way to free 
myself from it unless it be by depreciating thee and denying thy abilities; but 
in a short time hence thy reputation will increase, and mine will gradually 
vanish, until thou art considered my superior by everybody. This, by Allah! I 
will never suffer even from my own son, much less be the instrument of it. On 
the other side, thou art aware that if thou possess any abilities, it is all owing to 
my having taken care of thy education, and fostered thy talents; had I not 
taught thee all my secrets, thou wouldst never have arrived by thyself at thy 
present eminence. I have, therefore, to propose to thee two expedients — either 
to leave this country immediately and go and settle in distant lands, whence 
the fame of thy name may never arrive here — or to remain in this city against 
my will, living upon thy own resources, having me for thy implacable enemy, 
and being in perpetual fear and anguish at my enmity. If thou decide for the 
first, and engage thy word never to return to this country as long as I am alive, 
I promise to provide thee with every necessary for thy journey, and give thee, 
besides, whatever sum of money and other articles thou mayest ask from me; 
if, on the contrary, thou resolve upon staying, beware! I shall not cease one 
moment attacking and harassing thee with all my might, and I shall spare no 
trouble or expense to obtain thy perdition; nay, I will risk my life and my 
property to ensure it. Now consider, and choose.” 

Ziryab departed from his mentor and teacher and decided to leave the 

country. Ishak, keeping his word, provided him with everything necessary for 
his journey. He then gave him a very considerable sum of money, and Zaryab 
took his flight, leaving his master. 

Finally, when one day Al-Rashid, upon hearing a song by Ishak, remem- 
bered Zaryab and inquired about him, Ishak said: (without appearing at all 
disconcerted), “ ‘who does the prince of the believers mean? that insane youth 
who pretends to hold conversation with the Jinn, and to learn his songs from 
them? Who thinks that he has not his equal to this world, and that the gifts of 
the Khalif are to be poured profusely upon his head? Well, some time ago he 
took it into his head to forsake the path which promised him so many 
advantages; he conceived a dislike to his profession, he began to despise that 
which would have been a source of honor to him, and he quitted me without 
telling me whither he was going; and this I consider quite providential for the 
prince of the believers, since he was of late subject to attacks of insanity, 
during which his expressions were exceedingly furious, and his manner so 
violent that he terrified all those who looked at him/ Al-Rashid seemed 
satisfied with this explanation, and never afterwards inquired about Zaryab.” 106 

Upon arriving in the West, Ziryab (referred to in the above story as Zaryab) 
wrote to Al-Hakam I, the ruler of Spain at that time. After informing him of 
his talents Al-Hakam was delighted and invited Ziryab to Andalus. After 
arriving in the West with his family Ziryab received news that Hakam had 
died. Ziryab considered turning back to Africa but was persuaded by the 
greeting encourage sent by the Caliph not to return. Shortly after, he received 
a letter from Abdur-Rahman II, son and successor of Al-Hakam, inviting him 
to Cordoba along with additional emissaries and provisions. 107 

Upon arriving at Cordoba he was given lodging at one of the best houses 
which had been prepared with all essentials including many gifts. Three days 
later he was invited to see Abdur-Rahman and was promised an honorarium 
in writing. It included 200 dinars per month for himself, 20 dinars a month for 
each of his four sons, plus 3000 dinars annually — one thousand on each 
Muslim festival and 500 additional on two other special celebrations. Also, 
200 measures of barley and a hundred measure of wheat, not counting various 
orchards and farmhouses valued at 40,000 dinars. After all of these arrange- 
ments, Ziryab was invited to “frequent the palace” of Abdur-Rahman as his 
table companion, so that his “singing might be heard.” 108 

Ziryab became the cornerstone of Spanish musical art. It is said that his 
most profound contribution to the art of music was in the field of instruction. 
In Cordova he founded the first conservatory of music. The curriculum 
consisted of three stages: (1) the study of rhythm, metre, and singing to the 
accompaniment of musical instruments; (2) the mastery of melody; and (3) an 
introduction to Zaidah (gloss). His method of training singers was to have a 
potential student sit on a round cushion called masurah, and then have him 
exert the full power of his voice. If the voice was weak, the student was made 



Golden Age of the Moor 

to tie a turban round his waist. If the aspirant stammered or was unable to open 
his mouth, or if he clinched his teeth, he was told to put inside his mouth a 
small piece of wood three inches in width, which was to be kept there day and 
night until his jaws were expanded. Then he was bade to utter at the top of his 
voice Ya hassam or Ah! If the sound was clear, powerful and sonorous he was 
admitted among his students . 109 

He also invented a plectrum made of eagle quill instead of the wooden one 
most often used. AI-Makkari says —“He was deeply versed in every branch of 
art connected with music; and was, moreover, gifted with such a prodigious 
memory that he knew by heart upwards of one thousand songs with their 
appropriate airs .” 110 

Before Ziryab the lute (oud) was composed of four strings “which an- 
swered to the four elementary principles of the body and expressed the four 
natural sounds .” 111 He added another red string and placed it in the middle 
which considerably improved the sound; made it more harmonious. Al- 
Makkari describes the arrangement as follows: “the treble or first string, 
which was dyed of a bright yellow, supplied in the lute the place of the bile in 
the human body: the next string to it, which was red, supplied the place of the 
blood; it was twice as thick as the treble, on which account he called it 
muthanna, i.e. double: the third was left undyed, and was consequently white, 
being intended as a representative of the phlegm in the human body; in size it 
was double the muthanna or second string, for which reason it was called 
muthallath or triple: the fourth, which was black, was intended to occupy in 
the instrument the same place as the black humors in the body of man; it was 
also called bam, and was the largest of all; in thickness it was double the third 
string. These four strings answered completely to the four natural sounds, 
harmony resulting from the balance of their opposite properties. The bam, being 
hot and dry, was opposed to the muthanna, which was hot and damp, and thus 
a balance was produced; the Zeyr, being hot and dry, matched the muthallath 
which was hot and damp; so that every nature met with its opposite property 
until it was balanced, and the equilibrium was established. As in the body of 
man, by the counteraction of the contrary elements of which it is composed.” 
By the side of the string representing the blood, Ziryab added a fifth string to 
represent the soul; placed in the middle under the muthallath and above the 
muthanna', thus supplying the place of the soul in the human body, and 
improving the four notes of the lute . 112 

Known as the “theory of humors” it was believed by Arab medical practi- 
tioners during the middle ages that everything in the human constitution was 
regarded as part of a “labile equilibrium” of different forces. Humoral medi- 
cine was a common practice as an aid to surgery by Arab physicians, who 
believed surgery should only be attempted as a final solution. So the task of 
music is to “restore the equilibrium of the soul the same way that medicine 
restores the equilibrium of the body humors .” 113 


Ziryab’s accomplishments transcended the field of music. More than just a 
musician, Ziryab became Jan Read informs us the fashionable arbiter of taste 
in ninth century Cordova . 114 Al-Makkari almost bursts into song when he 
speaks of him. “Ziryab moreover, was fitted with so much penetration and 
wit; he had so deep an acquaintance with the various branches of polite 
literature; he possessed in so eminent a degree the charms of conversation, 
and the talents requisite to entertain an audience, he could repeat such a 
number of entertaining stories; he was so acute and ingenious in guessing of 
the wants of his royal master, that there never was either before or after him a 
man of his profession who was more generally beloved and admired. Kings 
and great people took him for a pattern of manners and education, and his 
name became forever celebrated among the inhabitants of Andalus.” Many of 
his innovations were accepted in Andalus. For example, before his arrival in 
Spain, men and women wore their hair parted in the middle and falling on 
both sides, covering the eyebrows. However when people of fashion saw 
Ziryab, his wives, and sons wearing their foreheads uncovered, with the hair 
trimmed leveled over the eyebrows and slanting toward the ears, they imitated 
him. Many customs in perfumes, clothes, cooking and the use of crystal 
tableware originated with this musician. His dinners became the fashion of 
Andalusia . 115 

He taught the inhabitants of Andalus to “extract murtak from the murdasang 
or lithurge” in order to remove the smell of the arm-pits, and for other 
purposes. He changed the procedure for washing clothes. Before, the rulers 
had their garments washed in rose water and garden flowers, the result being 
they never looked clean. Ziryab showed them how to use salt, “mixed with the 
above,” consequently “the linen was made clean and white.” He was the first 
to gather and eat asparagus which had been unknown before his arrival. A 
dish called at-tafaya, made of force-meat balls and small triangular pieces of 
paste, fried in oil, was also an invention of Ziryab’s. Today a fried dish 
resembling this in Andalusia bears the name takalliyah Ziryab (the fried dish 
of Ziryab ). 116 

In addition, he instructed the people of Andalus to use vessels of crystal 
instead of gold and silver; sleep on a soft couch of prepared leather instead of 
cotton blankets; dine from small leather trays rather than wooden tables 
(because it was easier to clean, to rub out dirt from leather than from wood . 1 17 

The tradition of changing clothes according to seasons of the year was 
another of his improvements . 118 He suggested wearing certain garments in the 
season intervening between summer and winter (spring) and likewise other 
garments to be worn towards the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. 
Before, for the most part, clothing was only changed twice yearly . 119 Jan Read 
reports: “A vogue for brightly colored clothes began with the arrival from 
Baghdad of the musician and singer Ziryab, sometimes described as an Arab 
Beau Brummel, during the reign of Abdu’r-Rahman II. He started fashions for 


Golden Age of the Moor 


the different seasons: light silk robes and vivid colors for the spring; white 
! from the beginning of June until the end of September, and quilted gowns or 

furs for Winter. 120 , 

He even revolutionized the style of eating, introducing recipes from the 
Orient; “and henceforth food was no longer served in one mass, but as 
separate courses, beginning with soups, continuing with entrees and meat and 
S finishing with desserts made from nuts, honey and compote of fruits, very 

similar to dishes popular in Spain today. 121 

Many were jealous of Ziryab. One Spanish poet, Al-Ghazzali, offended by 
the prestige of this singer, unleashed inventions and satire against Ziryab until 
the Caliph Abdur-r-Rahman ordered him to cease. Some of the employees of 
the exchequer were opposed to paying out of the public funds, 30,000 dinars, 
the sum which Ziryab was once paid. But, in general, even among top 
officials his name was remembered as that of an artist of proverbial fame, 
whose music and teaching really formed the traditional Spanish school. 

According to historian Ibn Khaldun, the legacy Ziryab left to Spain was 
treasured for centuries. Adherence to his musical tradition was widespread in 
Seville, and, when decadence finally set in, it spread into Africa and Almagreb 
where some traces were still found in the fourteenth century. 1 ^ 

| The school of Ziryab took root in Spain, thanks to his many followers, and 

i most of all members of his family. He had ten children, eight boys and two 

girls. Everyone adopted the art of music. Ziryab’s songs were carefully 
collected and preserved by Aslam bin Abdul-l-Aziz. He knew all of Ziryab’s 
songs as well as their history and classification, and could perform them. He 
consequently made an impressive collection which was later popularized. ‘ 
The “oriental” school of music became acclimated in Spain, due to the 
presence of musicians from the East who introduced it in early times. Also, 
because these musicians continued to migrate to Al-Andalus throughout the 
period of Moorish domination, the influence in poetry, rhythms and melodies 
was constant. But the Andalusians were not content to passively execute this 
music just as it was imparted. Many composers did original works. u 

Included were Abdul-l-Wahab, considered “the most distinguished author- 
ity of his time in matters of fine singing, a man of great knowledge and an 
eminent poet with great nobility.” He wrote poems and set them to his own 
music, works of “great merit and originality.” Whenever singers came from 
the Orient they were told to meet Abdul-l-Wahab and were subsequently 
i received, entertained and given presents and garments. 1 - 6 , 

The new music brought into Al-Andalus from the East evolved d,f f i er ® nt ^ 
than it did in its place of origin. In the “Orient” musicians were usua y or 
and bred in humble surroundings. They were paid and applauded by he 
! populace, and of necessity composed in forms that were simple and of the 

people However, when the focus of composition shifted to the courts oi 
Baghdad, with music as a “spectacle of palace life, paid for by Kings ana 



potentates of the courts,” it began, according to some critics, to become 
“decadent.” 127 

Even though it was brought into Al-Andalus through palace artists, it was 
eventually restored to a new simplicity and freshness by the common people. 
Social and political changes 128 after the reign of Abdur-r-Rahman II led to a 
music partly affected by this “palace style” but inspired deeply by a new 
“national” spirit. A blind poet, Mocadem bin Mafa, from the town of Cabra, 
became very popular with songs of a “national” character. Mocadem’s poetry 
utilized the metrical system based on the familiar style that “the public could 
sing.” The new system, although it grew out of the classic Arabic style 129 was 
different from it in that “the verses in the Arabic system consist of two 
hemistichs, every pair throughout a given figure using one rhyme, and all 
having the same metrical pattern;” The new popular system, however, was 
without hemistichs, and had short rhymed lines that varied in length with 
various rhythms. At the same time it adhered to a strict pattern indicated by 
the popular refrain which was the foundation of these compositions and the 
essence of the system. This form was simple, a pair of lines for the refrain and 
a quatrain for the stanza, thus: aa, bbba, ccca. 130 Other poets followed Mocadem 
and he was widely imitated. 

The one credited with bringing the Andalusian metric system to “its 
greatest perfection” was Ubada bin Ma-As-Sama. He corrected bad habits of 
the poets who used this system and “introduced greater variety into the rhyme 
patterns.” They included Muwashahs with refrain and stanzas, extending to 
ten and eleven syllables; so those of ten, abab, cdcdcdabab (five stanzas), 
those of eleven, abcde, fgfgfgabcde (five stanzas). The kind of poetry dem- 
onstrated became very popular because of its elegant artistic combinations; 
and this can be credited to Ma-As-Sama’s compositions which he introduced 
and which “supplanted the poems of his predecessors.” Consequently, in Al- 
Andalus in the eleventh century A.D. a lyric system of Zajals and Muwashah 
was invented, encompassing “every complexity from the quatrain aaab, the 
simplest pattern, to the pattern fgfgfgabcde.” 131 

Of all the poets Ibn Kuzman’s work remains in its entirety. His full name 
was Abu-l-Asbag Isa Bin Kuzman. He was charged with the literary instruc- 
tion of the Caliph Hisham Al-Muwayad during the time of AJ-Mansur. In 
spite of an early desire to make verse in the classic form, he quickly aban- 
doned the idea and devoted his talents to specialize on the Zajals in Andalusian 
vulgate, in which he excelled. 132 

Among the new poets in Al-Andalus there were “two currents,” as can be 
seen in Kuzman’s compositions. One style was popular and crude in words 
and subjects, careless in form and structure; the other erudite, elegant, and 
beautiful, but pedantic, both in subject-matter and language. Ibn Kuzman 
attempted to fuse both currents. 133 

Apart from musical composition, instrument-making achieved a high state 


Golden Age of the Moor 

of development in Moorish Spain. Ash-Spheccundi, a resident of Seville in 
the thirteenth century, reports on the types of musical instruments in that city: 
The khayal, the carrizo (reed) the lute, the rata, the rabel (rebec), the Kanun 
(psaltery or harp), the munis, the quenira (type of Zither), the quitar, the 
Zolami (oboe), the shokra, and the nura (flutes). 134 

The lyric models of the Moors of Andalus was also accepted by the 
Christian population and it seems reasonable to assume that if the music of the 
Spanish Moors crossed the Mediterranean Sea and was imitated by people far 
away, it certainly caught on among the Christians of the Peninsula. When the 
Moorish cities were reconquered by the Christians they still enjoyed the 
playing and singing of the Moors. The Christian Kings kept Moorish musi- 
cians in their employ even as the Moorish kings before them. 135 

The Andalusian system stayed alive among Spanish poets as late as the 
middle of the 17th century. Therefore it is also reasonable to assume that the 
music accompanied the poetry and remained popular for many centuries. 136 

The musical instruments were naturally taken over, beginning with the 
lute, the noblest and most important of all. Historians confirm that when 
Arabs introduced the lute to the peninsula, it passed to other European 
countries where it remained the dominant string instrument until after the 
Renaissance. The Moors constructed many types of lutes — soprano, baritone, 
and so forth, and with varying numbers of strings. 137 (see figure 26) 

Among the wind instruments used by Moors of Spain which later became 
traditional among Christians of the Peninsula are: the Pastoral flute, the 
Moorish pipes, two kinds of flagealet, and the bagpipes. The instruments of 
percussion were the bambrel, tambourine, castanets, brass rattles, macara, and 
atambor. 138 

In the early 1920’s, a study was made of two collections of Spanish 
Christian songs — the Concionero de Palacio and the Cantigas of the Spanish 
King Alfonso X, The Wise (1252-1284). 

Within these song books were found a great store of archaic and traditional 
poetry with the most popular having the same strophic and rhythmic patterns 
of the Moors. 

The Cantigas, a repository of music types from southern and northern 
Spain, includes those preserved among other Spanish-speaking Nations. They 
include “habaneras and other American melodies and dances and even Euro- 
pean music that had been influenced by the music of Spain.” 139 * 

This book of songs was copied in Seville in the 13th century by orders from 
Alfonso X. Like the Concionero de Palacio (another book of songs) it con- 
tains “the instrumental and vocal compositions of the Moors who were the 
professionals at Alfonso’s court.” It is not surprising since Seville had been 
the Center of Andalusian musical culture and Alfonso X the wise had “many 

* Editor’s Note: By this is meant those melodies and dances that were later to turn up 
among Latin or Hispanic peoples in modern America. 



Figure 26 . Al-Oud (lute) “The noblest and 

most important of all 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Moorish friends” at his court who had translated volumes of literature from 
Moorish culture. 140 

Julian Ribera, whose scholarly study of the lyric poetry of the Spanish 
Moors was published in the nineteen-twenties, points out that virtually all 
historians of Western literature “indicate the French and Provencal ancestry 
of the Cantigas and the Galician poetry of the thirteenth, fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries” and thereby deny any influence of the Andalusian Moors. 
There are more than four hundred songs in the Cantigas de Santa Maria of 
Alfonso X, the Wise. The majority of these fit the pattern of the Andalusian 
Metric system. 

“The truth,” says Ribera “is that the greater number of the cantigas are in 
the Zajal form of the Spanish Moors, created, as we have said, in Andalusia 
toward the end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth century. A little 
strophe, thematic in character, generally a distich, heads each cantiga, and is 
the refrain to be sung by the chorus. Then comes a strophe of three monorhymed 
lines, followed by a fourth with a common rhyme for the soloist. Now to 
recognize this form in the Cantigas, one must keep in mind: 

1. That the rhyme is essential to the verse; therefore, where there is no 
rhyme, one may recognize a cesura and not a full line. 

2. That the Cantigas belong to the choral lyric type and not to the monodic. 

It is to be remembered in regard to the foregoing observations that the 

estribillo is not to be divided except at rhymes. Only thus may one discover 
the real form of the Zajals of Alfonso the Wise. 

There are only five Cantigas in which Alfonso breaks away from the form 
of the Spanish Moors to follow the Galician popular tradition, aab, ccb, in 
itself a simplification of the zejel. Nine of them follow the Provencal pattern. 
Thus it may be said that ninety per cent of the Cantigas are in the zajal 
pattern.” 141 All of these cantigas (that is, the ninety percent) showed that they 
were the instrumental and vocal compositions of the Moors. 

The conclusion was made that the Cantigas is a perfect collection of 
Moorish music, vocal and instrumental, as it was known in the 13th cen- 
tury. 142 

In addition to this, there lies in the Cantigas the key to the interpretation of 
the manuscripts of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, especially those of the 
troubadours. French musicologist, Pierre Aubry, writing on the music of the 
troubadours noted that they did not preserve “the ecclesiastic tonalities”; and 
that nowhere in ars mensurabilis are there indications that lead to a better 
understanding of “tonalities employed by the secular musicians.” He goes on 
to say that, other than for a few characteristics, little is recognized as far as 
tonalities, and even that little is uncertain. Explaining the origin of troubador 
music, Aubry claims that two musical civilizations co-existed in France. One 
of these was “the treasure of the ancient Gregorian music with its eight 
ecclesiastic modes, its free rhythms and its use of Guido’s notation.” The 


other was the music of the century, a worldly production whose origins are 
unknown to us, in other words musica ficta 

In contrast to the ecclesiastic tonalities which have been preserved, the 
musica ficta which appeared during the middle ages featured alterations “by 
means of accidentals” (sharps and flats) and the introduction of the leading 
tone. This was unnecessary in Gregorian music. However it was necessary to 
the very nature of the troubador’s music. “These new alterations,” says 
Aubrey “prepared the way for modern tonalities.” In regard to the source of 
the music of the troubadors Salvador-Daniel says it cannot be explained 
satisfactorily save by admitting the Arab influence in Europe, particularly 
from the eighth to the fourteenth century. This influence is clear in the case of 
literature in the South of France, in Spain and in Italy. It must, therefore, have 
been exerted on music also, which, along with poetry, formed the essence of 
the troubadours and minstrels. 

In our opinion, this is the important aspect of this study, seeing that from it 
may be deduced curious and interesting information of a period almost 
unknown in musical history. 144 

In his search for the origin of the French “provencal epic poems,” Titus 
Burchardt found no evidence of its origin in early Romance poetry, in fact no 
trace of any early Romance poetry before the Provencal. The early Provencal 
epic poems, which precede all Christian-medieval vernacular verse, were 
quite clearly modelled, he contends, on the Arabic-Andalusian short poem, 
the zajal. This is hardly surprising, since Moorish culture exercised a strong 
influence on neighboring southern France, and the first known poet of courtly 
love to write in vulgar Latin, Prince William of Aquitaine, is almost certain to 
have spoken Arabic. Thus the origins of the Minnesongs, or poems of courtly 
love, which began in Provence (France) and swept through the German- 
speaking countries, lay in Moorish Andalusia. 145 

A glance at the musical instruments of medieval Spain, as delineated in 
manuscripts of the tenth and eleventh centuries, and in the “Cantigas de Santa 
Marta” (thirteenth century) reveals the debt owed to the Moors, while the 
names of these instruments, preserved in the verses of Juan Ruiz (fourteenth 
century) fully supplement this assertion. Laud, rabe morisco, cano, atambor, 
mor ^ sca ’ 8 a y ta > exabeba, albogon, anafil, and atambal, were names 
which came through the Arabic. Other documents tell use of dulcayna, adufe, 
exaquir, chirimia and xelami, all of which are derived from the same source 146 
(see figures 27-33) 

It is not just the contribution of instruments, although this was major. The 
songs in the Concionero clearly reveal well developed major and minor scales 
ith a regular harmonic bass, impromptu modulations showing the antiquity 
of its usage. Some of the music of the Spanish lute-players of the 15th and 
16th centuries were examined. In their music was found a variety of en- 
chanting melodic designs, with chords foreign to the contemporaneous Euro- 


Golden Age of the Moor 

pean tradition, with harmonizations as modern as those of a century later . 147 
Salvador-Daniel refers to the music of the Moors as “the lost theory of the 
music of the ancients.” Noting the importance of tracing Moorish civilization 
he says: “I determined, as far as possible, to follow everywhere the traces of 
Moorish civilization. In this, no country better than Spain (except Africa, 
which I had already traversed to a great extent) could offer the traces of what 
the music of the first centuries of our era was.” 148 

Farmer contends that the chief contributions of the Moors to Medieval 
Europe was mainly on the “instrumental side.” He turns to Carl Engel (Early 
History of the Violin Family, p. 79) who says that when Moors arrived in 
Europe in the Eighth Century, they were more advanced in the cultivation of 
music particularly in the construction of musical instruments than the Euro- 
pean nations. Further the Moors were the first to introduce a scientific 
description of musical instruments and possessed the only “didatic instrumen- 
tal methods in Europe during the Middle Ages. 149 There are historians who 
acknowledge the contribution in the matter of musical instruments to “Medi- 
eval Europe,” but deny any musical theory coming from the Moors. Regard- 
ing this, Farmer says that two points have been overlooked in his argument on 
what he calls “Arabian Culture contact.” (1) “The political contact which 
began in the eighth century was spread abroad by the instrumentalists mainly, 
and (2) the literary and intellectual contact which began in the tenth century 
was due chiefly to the intellectuals.” Since there was such an “advanced state 
of instrumental music” it would be difficult to deny that some practical theory 
would have also been passed along. “Indeed, I believe, with others,” says 
Farmer “that the major mode, due directly to the accordatura and fretting of 
the Arabian lute, was among the new musical ideas introduced in this way.” 
He also points to evidence of the transmission by the Moors of practical 
theory, of “solfeggio, notation, tablature, organum, consonanees, etc.” 150 
For years a shroud has hung over the music of Spain, the source of 
development of both its classical and popular forms being virtually unknown. 
Historians have claimed ignorance of its “progress” and even suggested that it 
was, in terms of its origin, set apart from other countries of Europe. One 
scholar declared that “modern Spanish folk-music had nothing in common 
with that of the middle ages.” At the same time many Spanish musicologists 
of today deny a Moorish influence on Spanish music, (although a Moorish 
Civilization existed in Spain from the Eighth to the Fifteenth Century). Rather 
they seek for all the roots of, and influences on, Spanish music in modern 
European music or ancient European culture. They do so in vain. For the 
history of Moorish music may be fragmented, its contributions, for various 
reasons, denied or suppressed, but it is neither dead nor buried. It lives on, like 
a subtle and vital undercurrent, in the modern music of Andalusia, in parts of 
Africa, and even, like a ghostly refrain, in the Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis 
and the Ole’ of John Coltraine. 



from the (W 28, E “™ pean musicians playing Moorish musical instrumen 
ne Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X of Castile. 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 39. Mukhuri. 

A Cantiga of Alphonso the Wise showing a Mukhuri rhythmic mode. 




1. John M. Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility -Aesthetics and 
Social Action in African Musical Idioms (University of Chicago, and London), 1979, 
p. 27. 

2. Okon Edet UYA, Global dimensions of the African Diaspora, (Howard Uni- 
versity Press, Wash. D.C.), 1982 (Joseph E. Harris, Editors), p. 73. 

3. Chernoff, p. 33. 

4. Paul Bohannon, Hangups from Wayback: Historical Myths and Canons Voi. 
II, (Canfield Press, San Francisco) 1970, Fredrick Gentles and Melvin Steinfield, 
Editors), p. 232. 

5 . Ashenafi Kebede, Roots of Black Music — The Vocal, Instrumental, and Dance 
Heritage of Africa and Black America, (Prentice Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), 
1982, p. 62. 

6. Alan P. Merriam, The Anthropology of Music (Northwestern University Press), 
1964, p.287. 

7. Kebede, p. 70. 

8. Ibid, p. 10. 

9. Ibid, p. 10. 

10. Ibid, p. 10. 

11. Ibid, p. 10. 

12. William P. Malm, Music Cultures of the Pacific, The Near East and Asia, 2nd 
Edition, Prentice Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.) 1977, p. 82, 83. 

13. Merriam, p. 281, 282. 

14. Miles Davis, The Autobiography, with Quincy Troupe, (Simon and Schuster, 
N.Y., London) 1989, p. 241. 

15. Ibid, p.242. 

16. Stanley, Lane Poole, The Story of the Moors in Spain (G. P. Putnam’s, N.Y. 
and London), 1886, p. 43. 

17. Henry George Farmer, Historical Facts for the Arabian Musical Influence, 
1970 (George Olms Verlag, Hildesheim, New York) p. 21. 

18. J. A. Rogers, Sex and Race Vol. I, (Helga M. Rogers, St. Petersburg, FI.), 
1967, p. 95. 

19. John Hunwick, The Muslim Journal, Vol. 16, No. 11, 1991 (Muslim Journal 
Inc., Chicago, Illinois) p. 1, 21. 

20. J. A. Rogers, p. 96. 

21. Ibid, p. 102. 

22. Farmer, p. 2, 3. 

23. Malm, p. 52. 

24. Ibid, p. 54. 

25. Ibid, p. 54. 

26. Ibid, p. 54. 

27. Ibid, p. 11. 

28. Ibid, p. 11. 

29. Ibid, p. 11. 

30. Ibid, p. 12. 

31. Ibid, p. 14. 

32. Ibid, p. 13. 

33. Ibid, p. 13. 

34. Ibid, p. 55. 

35. Ibid, p. 55. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

36. Ibid, p. 55. 

37. Johannes N. Colaisen, Ecology and Culture of the Pastoral Tuareq, (National 
Museum of Copenhagen), 1963, p. 438. 

38. Ibid, p.439. 

39. Anwar Chejne, Muslim Spain: Its History and Culture (University of Minne- 
sota Press), 1974, p. 234. 

40. Ibid, p. 233. 

41. Ibid, p. 236. 

42. Ibid, p.246. 

43. Ribera, p. 86. 

44. Kebede, p. 15. 

45. Malm, p. 55. 

46. Kebede, p. 16. 

47. Ibid, p. 17. 

48. Ibid, p. 17. 

49. Ibid, p. 17. 

50. Farmer, p. 50. 

51. Ibid, p. 50, 51 . 

52. Ibid, p. 117. 

53. John A. Williams in African Presence in Early Europe, Editor Ivan Van Sertima 
(Transaction Publishers, N.J.) 1988, p. 83. 

54. Farmer, p. 51. 

55. Ibid, p. 52. 

56. Ibid, p. 56. 

57. Ribera, p. 31. 

58. Ibid, p. 32. 

59. Farmer, p. 53. 

60. Ibid, p. 57. 

61. Ibid, p. 54. 

62. Ribera, p. 30. 

63. Ibid, p. 30. 

64. Farmer, p. 63. 

65. Ibid, p. 64. 

66. Ibid, p. 64. 

67. Ibid, p. 64, 65. 

68. Ribera, p. 32. 

69. Chejne, p. 369. 

70. Ibid, p.369. 

71. Ibid, p. 370. 

72. Ibid, p. 370. 

73. Ibid, p. 34. 

74. Ibid, p. 36. 

75. Ibid, p. 37. 

76. Ibid, p. 42. 

77. Chandler. 

78. Ali Baghdadi, Bilalian News, (Muhammad’s Mosque #2, Chicago, 111.), 1 976, 
Vol. 1, No. 27, 

79. Ribera, p. 48. 

80. Ibid, p. 48. 

81. Ibid, p. 50. 

82. Ibid, p. 50. 



83. Ibid, p. 49. 

84. Ibid, p. 49. 

85. Ibid, p. 50. 

86. Ibid, p. 51. 

87. Ibid, p. 51. 

88. Farmer, p. 247. 

89. Ibid, p. 248. 

90. Ibid, p. 248. 

91. Ibid, p. 248. 

92. Ibid, p. 248, 249. 

93. Ribera, p. 51, 52. 

94. Ibid, p. 77. 

95. Emil Naumann — History of Music (Cassell and Co., London, Paris), Vol. 1, p. 
89, 90. 

96. Ribera, p. 76. A 

97. Ibid, p. 76. 

98. Ibid, p. 77. 

99. Chejne, p. 370. 

100. Ribera, p. 98. 

101. Ibid, p. 99. 

102. Ibid, p. 99. 

103. Ibid, p. 100. 

104 . Ahmed Ibn Mohammed Al-Makkari, Translator Pascual De Guyangos (John- 
son Reprint Corp., New York, N.Y.), 1964, Vol. 1 book 2, p. 410. 

105. Ibid, p. 410. 

106. Ibid, p. 41 1, 412. 

107. Ribera, p. 116. 

108. Chejne, p. 372. 

109. Al-Makkari, p. 121. 

110. Ibid, p. 119, 120. 

111. Ibid, p. 119. 

112. Ibid, p. 119. 

113. Titus Burckhardt, Moorish Culture in Spain (McGraw Hill, N.Y., Toronto), 
1972, p. 71. 

w y4.Jan Reade, The Moors in Spain and Portugal (Faber and Faber, London), 

115. Makkari, p. 120. 

116. Ibid, p. 120. 

1 17. Ibid, p. 120. 

118. Ibid, p. 120. 

119. Ibid, p. 120,121. 

120. Read, p. 57. 

121. Ibid, p. 65. 

122. Ribera, p. 105. 

123. Ibid, p. 106. 

124. Ibid, p. 117. 

125. Ibid, p. 117. 

126. Ibid, p. 118. 

127. Ibid, p. 119. 

128. Ibid, p. 1 19. 

129. Ibid, p. 125. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

130. Ibid, p. 125. 

131. Ribera, p. 128. 

132. Ibid, p. 131. 

133. Ibid, p. 131. 

134. Ibid, p. 138. 

135. Ibid, p. 143. 

136. Ibid, p. 154. 

137. Ibid, p. 154. 

138. Ibid, p. 155. 

139. Ibid, p. 7. 

140. Ibid, p. 5. 

141. Ibid, p. 190, 191. 

142. Ibid, p. 5, 6. 

143. Ibid, p. 182. 

144. Francesco Salvador-Daniel, The Music and Musical Instruments of the Arab, 
Editor, Henry George Farmer (Longwood Press, Portland, Maine) 1915, p. 108. 

145. Burchardt, p. 87. 

146. Farmer, p. 13. 

147. Ribera, p. 175. 

148. Daniel, p. 53. 

149. Farmer, p. 61 
150. Ibid, p. 62. 



For all the negroes or black Moors are descendants of Cush, the son of 
Ham, who was the son of Noah. But whatever difference there is between 
the negroes and the tawny Moors, it is a fact that they are all of the same 

Leo Africanus, A Geographical 
Historie of Africa, 1600 

That ancestry to which Leo Africanus was referring is African. European 
scholars in the past five hundred years have been deliberately dishonest in 
their writings about Africa. There are innumerable instances, much too nu- 
merous to catalogue in this work, of this dishonesty. However, we cannot 
ignore the fact that certain western scholars have claimed that the Moors 
belonged to every other race except African. As a result much confusion has 
been spread around the word “Moor.” 

This study is not intended to prolong the discussion about who the Moors 
were or who they were not. Scholars who are not blinded by the fog of racism 
are of one voice that most of the Moors were Africoid in origin; even many of 
the marauding Arabs who crossed the desert sands of Arabia and swept down 
with their Islamic fervor on northern regions of Africa, then crossing the 
Sahara and moving further southward. Massive miscegenation did alter the 
picture, producing people who were of all shades, from jet black to very near 
“white.” Dr. Chancellor Williams hits the nail on the head, once and for all, 
when he asks and answers the question: 

Now, again, just who were the Moors? The answer is very easy. The 
original Moors, like the original Egyptians, were Black Africans. As 
amalgamation became more and more widespread, only the Berbers, 

Arabs and coloureds in the Moroccan territories were called Moors, 
while the darkest and black skinned Africans were called “Black-a- 
Moors.” Eventually, “black” was dropped from “Blackamoor.” In North 
Africa — and Morocco in particular— all Muslim Arabs, mixed breeds 
and Berbers are readily regarded as Moors. The African Blacks, having 
had even this name taken from them, must contend for recognition as 

Dr. J.C. DeGraft-Johnson, in his study, African Glory ( The Story of Van- 
ished Negro Civilizations) states categorically that: 

It was because the conquering army in Spain was largely made up of 
Africans from Morocco that we hear such phrases as “the Moorish 



invasion of Spain,” and why Shakespeare’s hero Othello is a Moor, and 
why the word “blackamoor” exists in the English language, a word which 
leaves no doubt as to the colour of the army of occupation in Spain and 

The term “Arabic” contends Dr. DeGraft-Johnson, must be understood in a 
cultural rather than a racial sense, “for the Arabs did not believe in any 
herrenvolk theory and freely intermarried with those they conquered.” Their 
conquest of North Africa, however, was no walk-over except perhaps in 
Egypt, where the Arabs were looked upon as deliverers from the oppressive 
rule of Byzantium. The fierce resistance mounted by Kuseila of Mauritania 
and by his relative Kahina projected the African mood at that period. In fact, 
so fierce and determined were the African counter-attacks that an Arab 
governor once saw fit to observe that the conquest of Africa was impossible. 
Scarcely had a Berber tribe been exterminated when another would take its 
place. Nevertheless, upon conquest, Africans appear to have been converted 
to the Mohammedan faith particularly through the system of intermarriage 
which was practised on an extensive scale by the Arabs. Among the African 
leaders converted to the Islamic faith during the invasion of Morocco was the 
great general known as Tarik. In describing Tarik and his army who captured 
Spain, chroniclers of the time made note that these Moors were “a black or 
dark people, some being very black.” 

The conquest of Spain has been described by Dr. DeGraft-Johnson as an 
African conquest. Like other historians before and after him he made it clear 
that the conquerors were Mohammedan Africans, not Arabs, “who had laid 
low the Gothic Kingdom of Spain.” The Arab quotient of this conquest was 
added by Professor C.P. Groves in his book, The Planting of Christianity in 
Africa (1948), when he stated that the Arab leader Musa-ibn-Nusair “appar- 
ently taken by surprise at the speed of events, hastened across with an army 
the following year and completed the conquest, thus associating Arab arms 
with the final victory.” 

This statement that the Arab leader Musa-ibn-Nusair had been taken by 
surprise by Tarik’s invasion of Spain the previous year (711 A.D.) needs 
some clarification. It was Musa-ibn-Nusair who, after having invaded Morocco 
gave Tarik the rank of general and left him in charge of Tangiers, making him 
governor of Mauritania. So when the African general decided that he intended 
crossing the straits to survey and examine the possibilities for an invasion he 
accordingly informed Musa-ibn-Nusair of his intentions. He carried out these 
intentions under his own leadership without the presence of Musa-ibn-Nusair. 
In 711, accompanied by 100 horses and 400 soldiers, General Tarik crossed 
over into Spain on this exploratory mission. He made landfall near the 
Spanish town of Algeciras and finding the country with virtually little or no 
defense, he ravaged the neighboring towns with his small army, returning to 
Africa laden with spoils. It was at this stage that Tarik gave an account of his 

Figure 1. Alessandro dei Medici, Duke of Florence, son-in-law of the Emperor 
Charles V. His father was a pope (Clement VII) and his mother, Anna, an 
African woman (See Figure 2). Alessandro was always referred to as Alessandro, 
the Moor. 

Figure 2. Anna, an African women, mother of Alessandro dei Medici the first 
Duke of Florence. 




Golden Age of the Moor 

mission to Musa-ibn-Nusair and later that same year he set sail again for 
Spain, this time in command of an army of 7,000 Africans. 

The story of this second invasion of the Iberian peninsula by African and 
Arab warriors is legendary. DeGraft-Johnson called it “an African conquest/ 
Basil Davidson, who has been recognised as the most distinguished of histo- 
rians, declared that there were no lands at that time (the eighth century) “more 
admired by its neighbors, or more comfortable to live in, than a rich African 
kingdom which took shape in Spain.” It is good to observe here that Basil 
Davidson did not resort to the words “Arab kingdom,” but that does not mean 
that Arab arms did not take part in the final victory. It was this Moorish 
invasion under the leadership of the African General Tarik which spurred the 
first great wave of miscegenation. In less than three years the Moors had 
conquered the entire Iberian Peninsula. The color of the conquering soldiers 
was described vividly by a European scholar who sympathized with Christian 

the reins of their (Moors) horses were as fire, their faces black as pitch, 
their eyes shone like burning candles, their horses were swift as leopards 
and the riders fiercer than a wolf in the sheepfold at night ... The noble 
Goths were broken in an hour, quicker than tongue can tell. Oh, luckless 

Other writers were not of the opinion that the conquest of Spain and 
Portugal was a disaster. The whites in those Iberian countries were not viewed 
in a favourable light: 

They are nearer animals than men ... They are by nature unthinking and 
their manners crude. Their bellies protrude; their color is white and their 
hair is long. In sharpness and delicacy of spirit and in intellectual per- 
spicacity they are nil. Ignorance, lack of reasoning power and boorishness 
are common among them. 

The Moors had a particularly low opinion of these whites. They had beaten 
them often on the battlefield and with inferior numbers. Even the Europeans 
in other countries of this continent were looked upon with disdain for their 
low intelligence and base ways of life. Modern European historians agree 
with Moorish writer Michaud in his History of the Crusades when he de- 
scribes the Prussians of the thirteenth century as being just a few stages above 
savagery. The palaces of the then rulers of Germany, France and England 
were, when compared with those of the Moorish Rulers of Spain and Portu- 
gal, “scarcely better than the stables” of the Moors. The education of the 
Moors was at such a high level that their scholars of Toledo, Cordova and 
Seville were producing treatises on spherical trigonometry when the math- 
ematical syllabus of the University of Oxford stopped abruptly at the fifth 
proposition of the book of Euclid. It was this superior intellect of the Moors 

which caused Stanley Lane-Poole in his famous The Story of the Moors in 
Spain to note: “Whatever makes a kingdom great, whatever tends to refinement 
and civilization was found in Moorish Spain.” 

The same degree of intellect and learning was brought by the Moorish 
conquerors of the Iberian peninsula to Portugal. Like Spain, that country was 
to be culturally influenced by the Moors. Its association with Africa dates as 
far back as the fourth and fifth centuries when Africans arrived in southern 
Europe. But it was in 711 A.D. that they marched in as conquerors under the 
command of Tarik. To reinforce what has been said earlier these Moors, as the 
early writers chronicled, were “a black or dark people, some being very 

After the invasion of 711 $ame other waves of Moors even darker. It was 
this occupation of Portugal which accounts for the fact that even noble 
families had absorbed the blood of the Moor. 

From that time onwards, racial mixing in Portugal, as in Spain, and 
elsewhere in Europe which came under the influence of Moors, took place on 
a large scale. That is why historians claim that “Portugal is in reality a 
Negroid land,” and that when Napoleon explained that “Africa begins at the 
Pyrenees,” he meant every word that he uttered. Even the world-famed shrine 
in Portugal, Fatima, where Catholic pilgrims from all over the world go in 
search of miracle cures for their afflictions, owes its origin to the Moors. The 
story goes that a Portuguese nobleman was so saddened by the death of his 
wife, a young Moorish beauty whom he had married after her conversion to 
the Christian faith, that he gave up his title and fortune and entered a 
monastery. His wife was buried on a high plateau called Sierra de Aire. It is 
from there that the name of Fatima is derived. 

The Moors ruled and occupied Lisbon and the rest of the country until well 
into the twelfth century. They were finally defeated and driven out by the 
forces of King Alfonso Henriques, who was aided by English and Flemish 
crusaders. The scene of this battle was the Castelo de Sao Jorge or, in English, 
the Castle of St. George. Today, it still stands, overlooking the city of 
“Lashbuna” — as the Moors named Lisbon. 

The defeat of the Moors did not put an end to their influence on Portugal. 
The African (Moorish) presence can be seen everywhere in Portugal; in the 
architecture of many of the buildings. They still retain their Moorish design - 
like the Praca De Toiros - the Bull Ring in Lisbon. A walk through Alfama - 
the oldest quarter in Lisbon, with its fifteenth century houses, narrow-winding 
streets — dates back to the time when it was the last settlement of the Moors. 
Fado singers abound in all corners and bistros of Alfama. Their songs and 
rhythms owe much to the influence of the Moorish musicians centuries ago. 
Even the fishing boats on the beaches of Cascais show marked African traces. 




Golden Age of the Moor 

Called the rabelos, these boats with their large red or white sails which also 
ply on the Douro River to fetch wine from the upper valleys, are reminiscent 
of the transport boats of Lagos in Nigeria. 

A deeper examination of Portugal within the time-frame of the Moorish 
invasion and occupation reveals a constant intermingling of White and Moor. 
Historians claimed that the mingling of the races in Portugal, as with Spain, 
“had much to do with the later high civilization reached by the Moors.” The 
African element was more predominant in Portugal than it was in Spain, some 
historians contend. The noble families in Portugal and in Spain, too, who had 
absorbed the blood of the Moor were innumerable. Even some of the knights 
who, in the wars of conquest distinguished themselves, had such blood. Of the 
Count of Coimbra, Don Sesnado, the chronicles tell us that he was of mixed 
blood, of Christian and Moor, and that he was a vizier among the Saracens. 
Another of mixed blood, Dorn Fifes Serrasim, became a member of the 
Christian nobility by marrying a Mendes de Braganza. 

Many European historians who constantly project biased scholarship in 
their writings of Africa and Africans, persist in denying the tremendous 
influence, both culturally and genetically, that the Moors (Africans) had on 
the countries of the Iberian Peninsula, particularly Portugal and Spain. One 
scholar, Gandia, stated bluntly: 

As to the mixture of Moors and the other inhabitants of the Iberian 
Peninsula it is useless to deny its occurrence. Without going into the 
social life of the Christians and Moslems, it may be mentioned in passing 
that the son of Musa married the widow of King Roderick and that the 
royal family of Witza united with the Moors of the purest stock. 

In order to get a clearer picture of what this marriage of the son of Musa 
signified in terms of unifying “with the Moors of the purest stock,” it is 
necessary to trace the lineage of “the son of Musa” and Musa himself. To give 
his full name, Musa-ibn-Nusair was the African-Arab Governor of Morocco 
whom Count Julian, the Governor of Ceuta on the northern tip of Morocco, 
contacted in 709 A.D. and encouraged to invade Spain. In June 712 Musa- 
Ibn-Nusair crossed the straits with 18,000 troops, mostly Berbers, to support 
Tariq against a possible strike-back by King Roderick. Musa captured Carmona, 
Medina, Sidonia and Ceremona, while his son, Abd-al-Aziz, took Seville, 
Niebla and Beja. After this conquest of Spain, Musa put his three sons in 
charge of the armies in Spain and North Africa: Abd-al-Aziz in Spain; the 
other two in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. 

Although marriage and mixture took place on an extensive scale in Spain 
and Portugal between White and Moor, the union of Egilona, widow of King 
Roderick, and Abd-al-Aziz eventually led to the assassination of the latter in 
716 as a result of the bitter resentment that the marriage caused among 
Muslims. Aziz was succeeded as commander of the army in Spain by his 

Figure 3. A Black Norman knight and his fair lady (1504-1534). There is 
evidence of a Moorish presence in Scotland and England as early as the tenth 
century {see Ancient Britons by David MacRitchie). 


i j... 




Golden Age of the Moor 

cousin, Ayyub ibn-Habib, who was eventually replaced by al-Hurr ibn 
Abdurrahman. At this stage of succession, Muslim rulers were instrumental in 
extending their rule from Spain and Portugal to many areas in France. In 717 
and 719 Hurr crossed the treacherous passes of the Pyrenees and entered 
France. Unrest in Spain prevented him from gaining any strong foothold in 
France. It was not until 729 that another Moorish ruler Haytham-ibn-Ubayad. 
was successful in capturing Lyon, Macon and Chalons-sur-Saone in France. 
Beaune and Autun were also under the control of the Berbers; and it was a 
Berber leader named Uthman-ibn-Abi-Nisah, known sometimes as Munuza, 
who governed not only Spain but parts of France as well. Munuza established 
excellent relationships with the Christians of France, Spain and Portugal, and 
married the daughter of Duke Eudes, Lampegie of Aquitaine. 

This period of Moorish rule between 719 and 729 was rife with intrigue and 
treachery. When al-Hurr-ibn-Abdurrahman was replaced by ab-Samh-ibn- 
Malik, the latter transferred the Spanish capital from Seville to Cordoba. He 
completely reorganized the finances of the country and system of taxation, 
carrying out several public works, and putting into operation an extensive 
survey of the land. He died in May 721 and was replaced by Abdurrahman- 
ibn-Abdullah who was quickly deposed in favor of Yahya-ibn-Salmah. In 
rapid succession two other Muslim rulers took control but were finally ousted; 
and once again, Abdurrahman-ibn-Abdullah gained office. 

Abdullah proved to be a strong ruler. Under his leadership the rival factions 
in the Empire became reconciled. But he was challenged by Munuza. Because 
of that challenge Abdullah set about the destruction of Munuza who had 
entered into intrigue with his father-in-law, Duke Eudes. Abdullah finally 
succeeded in killing Abu-Nisah, known also as Munuza, and sending the 
latter’s wife to Damascus, where she married the son of the Caliph, Hisham. 

Abdullah then crossed the Pyrenees and delivered a crushing blow against 
Duke Eudes on the Garonne, sacked Bordeaux and went across Politiers into 
Tours. It was at this point in 732 that Abdullah went into battle with Charles 
Martel. He died in that fight and Tours marked the western limit of the 
Umayyad Empire. It is universally agreed that the Berbers, with their black 
blood, mixed with some Arab, became a conquering people. They would have 
taken the whole of France had they not clashed with Charles Martel in Tours. 
However, they remained in Southern France until 1140, principally in the 
Camarque on the western Riviera, which is still known as La Petite Afrique. 

In the centuries that were to follow, these same African (Moorish) con- 
querors civilized backward Spain and Portugal. The court of the Moorish 
rulers at Cordoba became the center of culture. Art, learning, refinement and 
elegance marked the reign of these African conquerors. Commerce flourished, 
mathematics, science and medicine found their way through the cultural 
darkness of Spain. This same cultural enlightenment was taken to Portugal by 
the conquering Moors of Africa. Contact with the Far East brought Spain and 

Portugal a real renaissance when other parts of Europe were spending a 
thousand years passing through the dark age which the destruction of Rome 
by the barbarians had brought about. 

Moorish domination extended to parts of Italy. In 846 A.D., they held the 
city of Rome in a state of siege while in 878 they captured Sicily from the 
Normans. Twenty years later the Moors took control of Southern Italy by 
defeating Otto II of Germany. As in Spain and Portugal, miscegenation took 
place on a wide scale between the Moors and the Italians who at that time had 
large infusions of Germanic blood due to the invasion of the Goths and 
Vandals. Like Portugal and Spain the blood of Africa permeated through all 
layers of Italian society and found its way into the leading families, including 
the most illustrious royal family of the times — the Medicis. Color was no bar 
to power and honor in Italy. Tflis was illustrated when Alessandro dei Medici, 
known as “The Moor,” became the first Duke of Florence. 

The Moors also dominated the British Isles at one point in history. The 
British archeologist and writer David McRitchie declared that the Moors 
dominated Scotland as late as the time of the Saxon Kings. He stated with 
scholarly authority: 

So late as the tenth century three of these provinces [of Scotland] were 
wholly black and the supreme ruler of these became for a time the 
paramount kingof transmarine Scotland. We see one of the black people — 
the Moors of the Romans — in the person of a King of Alban of the tenth 
century. History knows him as Kenneth, sometimes as Dubh and as 
Niger.... We know as a historic fact that a Niger Val Dubh has lived and 
reigned over certain black divisions of our islands — and probably white 
divisions also — and that a race known as the “Sons of the Black” succeeded 
him in history. 

It is no exaggeration, then, to claim that the Moors were a leading power in 
those six or seven centuries from the time of Tarik’s conquest on the Iberian 
Peninsula. They dominated the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic and 
held power over the coasts of Western Europe and the British Isles, as has 
been stated earlier. But it is not for their military conquests in Europe that the 
Moors are remembered. It is the culture and learning which they gave to 
European countries at a time when there was darkness and nothing elevating 
in the arts and sciences of a country that was to claim falsely in later centuries 
to be the cradle of the civilization of the world. That this civilization was first 
given to them by the Africans who remained in European countries for several 
centuries has stayed shrouded in perjuries, half-truths, mythologies and/or 
total omissions. This civilization, brought by the African Moors, needs further 
and deeper examination, especially as Spain and Portugal were the first 
countries in Europe to benefit from the enlightenment which the African 
warrior-scholars carried with them from across the African mainland through 
the Mediterranean Sea to Iberia, and to other European countries further 


Golden Age of the Moor 

inland. In Britain, for instance, the Morris-dance, England’s national dance 
which has been performed every May-day for centuries was originally a 
dance performed by Moors. It is of African origin, and was introduced in 
England before William the Conqueror in 1066. Sir John Hawkins, an eigh- 
teenth century man-of-letters and music authority in London, wrote: “It is 
indisputable that this dance was the invention of the Moor.” Tabourot, another 
authority, chronicled the same strong statement. Dr. Samuel Johnson who 
compiled the first English dictionary in the middle years of the eighteenth 
century defined the Morris dance as “A Moorish dance” and the invention of 
the Moors in England in the seventeenth century. Any kind of entertainment 
or masquerade was called “Mauresque,” wrote Paul Mettl, “because the guise 
of the black man was the most important and popular, a phenomenon which 
points on the one hand to the significance of the black race for the aesthetic 
life of the whites; on the other hand to the ancient habit of all Europeans to 
paint the face black on certain occasions of cult ritualism.” Nettl quotes 
Arbeau, the French writer of the sixteenth century, who stated that often in 
good society he would see “a youth with blackened face” do this Morris 
dance. In the Italian madrigal literature of the Renaissance, says Arbeau, “real 
Negroes were introduced.” Real African minstrels were popular entertainers 
in the Scottish and Tudor courts of England during the fifteenth century. 
David McRitchie writes: 

In 1501 one of the King’s minstrels was Peter the Moryen or Moor ... In 
1504 two blackamoor girls arrived and were educated at the court where 
they waited on the Queen. They were baptized, Elen and Margaret. In 
June 1507 a tournament was held in honor of the Queen’s black lady, 

Elen Moore, which was conducted with great splendor. 

Queen Elizabeth I had one favorite African in her Tudor court. She was 
Luce Morgan also known as Lucy Negro. Elizabethan history tells much 
about this fascinating African beauty who was sought after by gentlemen in 
the Inns of Court in London, titled men and even William Shakespeare. Her 
association with the Bard of Avon was not only intriguing but mysterious as 
well. That love affair has been meticulously swept under the carpets of 
English history. But eventually the truth will always show itself and this one 
is now known to an ever-growing number of scholars. The effect that Luce 
Morgan had on Elizabethan England was tremendous. She made her entry 
into some entertainments that were being given at the Inns of Court in grand 
style. The occasion has been described in this manner by a historian: 

The Gray’s Inn Revels were different that Christmas of 1594. But the 
idea was still the same: entertainments to parody the affairs and ceremo- 
nies of the English court. The Revels would start on Hallowe’en and last 
until Candlemass. A Prince of Purpool was installed on December 20th. 



Figure 4. Moors on coats-of-arms of medieval English families 


Golden Age of the Moor 

He was two characters in one — Purpool and the Lord of Misrule. By the 
28th there were so many spectators that Gray’s Inn Hall became too 
packed for anyone to enter. That evening the actors put on the Comedy of 
Errors. Six days later the Revels were in full swing. Among those present 
were Lord Burleigh, the Earl of Essex, the Lord Keeper, Sir Robert Cecil 
and the Earls of Shrewsbury, Cumberland, Northumberland, and 
Southampton. The amusements began with a symbolic piece of the 
restoration of amity between Graius and Templarius. After that the Prince 
of Purpool held court. To pay homage to him came the Abbess of 
Clerkenwell, “with a choir of Nuns, with burning lamps, to chaunt 
Placebo to the gentlemen of the Prince’s Privy-Chamber, on the Day of 
His Excellency’s Coronation.” 

It was the Abbess who made the difference in that year’s Revels. For she 
was not a lady of court but a courtesan from Clerkenwell. She was tall, 
statuesque, and haughty. Her name was Lucy Negro and she was in fact 
black and an African. 

Dr. George Bagshawe Harrison, an authority on Shakespeare, claims that 
Shakespeare fell in love with Lucy Negro only to lose her later to the Earl of 
Southampton. Dr. Harrison makes a further more startling statement: “This 
Lucy Negro I would identify as the Dark Lady of the Sonnets”; the woman to 
whom William Shakespeare is said to have written these immortal lines. 

Dr. Leslie Hotson, a man of brilliant and unorthodox scholarship and an 
expert on Shakespeare, after exhaustive research throws further light on Lucy 

I have been at some pains to collect facts and reports about Luce Morgan. 

My reward is the discovery of a series of documents indicating that some 
years before she charmed Shakespeare she had first charmed Queen 

In the England of the Tudor monarchs in the fifteenth century and after 
blacks were very much in evidence in a particular show, London’s colorful 
Lord Mayor’s show. One black known as “King of the Moors,” mounted on a 
“lion” and preceded by other Africans bearing bars of gold, would lead the 
show. In 1680 a historian wrote: “On the Lion is mounted a young African 
Prince attired in a very right habit ... with a gold hilt in scarf of gold by his 
side. With one hand he holds a golden Bridle, in the other St. George’s Banner 
and representh power.” Such were the scenes in various cities during the 
twilight of the power of the Moors in Europe. Another kind of African was 
making entry into Europe, this time not as conqueror, but as captive. But that 
is another story with tragic dimensions. Let us go back to the conquering but 
scholarly African Moors who peopled the Iberian Peninsula and other areas of 
that backward continent of Europe. They were the first to bring the benefits of 
civilization and scholarship to a continent sunk in the very abyss of vulgarity 
and barbarism. 




David McRitchie produces enough evidence to prove that a race of Afri- 
cans (Moors) lived in Scotland and parts of England well back into the tenth 
century. He writes: “Our language still retains the memory of their presence,” 
and goes on to say that: 

In Shakespeare’s time the audience at the Globe accepted the word as 
meaning ‘a black man’, and either then, or later on, it became tautologi- 
cally extended into ‘blackamoor’. The common people of the country are 
not likely to have known much about the ultra-British ‘Moors’, -not 
enough at any rate, to have made the word an everyday term for a black 
man. Nor can the Moors of heraldry be explained sufficiently by the 
theory that the founders of families bearing Moors as supporters, and 
Moors’ heads as crests, had won their spurs in assisting the Spaniards 
expel their Moors. The bearing is too common among ancient coats-of- 
arms to admit of this explanation. And the heraldic representation of a 
“Moor” does not suggest Granada. 

McRitchie gives the names of many of these families (Moorish) whose 
names are quite celebrated in English history. One of these is the aristocratic 
Douglas family, said to be one of the ancestors of the present royal family of 
Britain. A British authority, J.A. Ringrose, explains about the founder of this 

About the year 770 in the reign of Salvathius, King of the Scots, Donald 
Bane of the Western Isles having invaded Scotland and routed the royal 
army, a man of rank and figure came seasonably with his followers to the 
King’s assistance. He renewed the battle and obtained a complete victory 
over the invader. The king being anxious to see the man who had done 
him such signal service, he was pointed out to him by his colour, or 
complexion in Gaelic language — sholto-du-glash — “behold the black or 
swarthy coloured man” from which he obtained the name Sholto the 

ivicKiicnie rurther states that the most revealing evidence of the Moorish 
origin of these noble families are “the thick-lipped Moors” on their coat-of- 
a rms. Many of these families still carry the name Moore. Barry’s Encyclope- 
dia Heraldica notes on its pages that “Moor’s head is the heraldic term for the 
head of a black or negro man.” McRitchie contends that the racial origin of 
these notable families stems from the fact that there were black peoples 
(Moors or Silures) domiciled in Scotland as early as the ninth and tenth 
centuries. Added to that, some of the bearers of the insignia of the Moor’s 
heads are named Moore. Among the latter are the Rt. Hon. William Ponsonby 
Moore, Earl of Drogheda; Moore of Hancot; Moore of Moore Lodge; the Earl 
of Annesly; and Morrison-Bell of Otterburn. Then, according to “Burke’s 
Peerage,” the bible of British aristocracy, the coat-of-arms of the Marquess of 
Londonderry consists of “a Moor wreathed about the temples, arg. and az.. 




Golden Age of the Moor 

holding in his hand a shield of the last, garnished or charged with the sun in 
splendor, gold.” Bearers of similar coats-of-arms are the Earl of Newburgh; 
Viscount Valentia, whose family is related to Annesly and whose arms bear a 
Moorish prince in armour; and, Baron Whitburgh. 

McRitchie maintains that these noble families were descendants of the 
Moors of the very earlier centuries who had been bred out until the black man 
finally disappeared by mating with whites only. He wrote: 

No ethnologist could detect the presence of other blood, and yet in both 
cases, the male descendant would bear the surname signifying “the black 
man” ... you may see faces of a distinctly Mongolian and even of a 
Negroid cast in families whose pedigree may be traced for many gen- 
erations without disclosing the slightest hint of extra-British blood ... so 
far as complexion goes there can be no doubt as to the presence of a vast 
infusion of “coloured” blood. There are of course, no living Britons who 
are as black as negroes but some are as dark as mulattoes and many 
darker than Chinese. To regard ourselves in the mass as a “white people” 
except in a comparative degree, is quite a mistake. 

The families with the name of Moor, Moore, Morris, Morrison, too, and 
other derivatives of Moor, had Moors as their ancestors, stated David 
McRitchie. Families with Moors in the coats-of-arms ranged from Sicily to 
Finland, and included Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, 
Poland, Denmark and Sweden. McRitchie was convinced that some African 
blood was also mixed with Norman blood, which is the last word in British 
“blue blood.” Listed among those were the Morrices, Fitz-Morices and 
Mountmorrices (all variations of Moor). A noted writer on heraldry, Lower, 
says of these August families: “They are supposed to be of Moorish blood; 
their progenitors having come from Africa by way of Spain into various 
countries of Western Europe.” 

Not only did the Moors in their European conquests leave their learning, 
their culture and their arts. Their blood, the blood of Africa, was to remain and 
flow in the veins of many a European, be he aristocrat or commoner. Finally, 
it is left now to investigate, in some detail, that culture which these Islamic 
sons of Africa left for the benefit of Europe, particularly Spain, and even more 
so, Portugal. It is this African cultural heritage which set in motion the 
expansion of Europe. 

European expansion on a global scale can be chronicled from the last years 
of the fifteenth century. By the coming of the next century the world known to 
western man had reached great proportions to span almost the entire earth s 
sphere. The explorers, Da Gama, Columbus, Cabot, Cabral, Magellan and 
many others had brought Europeans to the farthest reaches of this planet, 
setting in motion what has been called the global epoch of European expan- 

denirtpH lV/f 3 ” 11 y CreSt fr0m Bntain showin g Moorish woman. Noble families 

»r„ f * ° ors o : / co r o, - ar,n r Hist ° r,an Dav,d 

me ot these n °ble families were descendants of the Moors. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

When the reasons for this mammoth expansion in the sixteenth century are 
examined, certain explanations become crystal clear. To put it bluntly it was 
the part Africa played in providing the learning that triggered off this expan- 
sion. The culture of North Africa, the resources of Central Africa and the 
equipment of Moorish science set off a spate of explorations which culmi- 
nated in the circumnavigation of the globe. 

The great part played by Africa in supplying the learning which caused the 
expansion to take place has had little, if any, exposure in the writings of 
historians. The question was never posed as to why the Iberian countries were 
in the forefront of this global expansion. The British, the French, the Dutch 
and the Italians owned the ships that could undertake this journey. Their 
leaders also possessed the necessary vision for such an enterprise. Yet they 
did not take the lead. With respect to overseas expansion they were always 
trailing way behind the Iberians. One may well ask at this point why was that 
so? Put quite simply the answer is that the outstanding factor which set Spain 
and Portugal apart from their neighbors in the north was their most valuable 
inheritance from Africa. The rich cultural, artistic, and scientific knowledge 
they inherited from the Moors placed Spain and Portugal well ahead of the 
rest of Europe, still backward and living in the dark ages. More than that, the 
Moors (Arabs and Berbers) struck the blow which completed the decay of 
ancient Spain and established Moorish Spain. This Spain was to herald one of 
the brightest chapters in the intellectual history of Medieval Europe. Portugal, 
too, played an equal role in bringing this about. Professor Thomas T. Hamilton 
of Old Dominion University made this point clearly when he stated: 

Between the middle of the eighth and the beginning of the thirteenth 
centuries the Arabic-speaking people (Moors) were the main bearers of 
the torch of civilization throughout the world, and were the medium 
through which ancient science was recovered, supplemented and trans- 
ported through Africa, Spain, Sicily in such a way as to make the 
Renaissance possible. 

Cordova, Seville and Toledo remained the centers of Moorish culture and 
science. Students from many countries of Western Europe were made welcome 
at the universities of these three cities. It was at Cordova that Gerbert of 
Aurillac gained mastery over mathematics. This caused him to introduce, 
when he became Pope Sylvester II, the use of Arabic numerals in the Latin 
West. The works of Aristotle first appeared in Europe through the Moors in 

The center of scientific learning remained in Toledo even though it had 
been reconquered by Castile in 1085. There, many converted Moors and Jews 
translated several mathematical, astronomical and astrological volumes of the 
Afro-Arabs into Latin. It was in 1080 that Al-Zargali of Toledo produced a 
number of astronomical and astrological works. Included in these works was 



a series of astronomical tables based on the work of a group of Afro-Arabs 
and Jewish predecessors. These studies, known as the Toledo Tables, con- 
tained not only astronomical material but geographical information, as well. 
They were translated into Latin in the twelfth century by Gerard of Cremona, 
who undertook most of this work in Toledo. 

By then Portugal and Spain were far ahead of the rest of the European 
countries in intellectual attainments. This advance was made possible by the 
proximity of Africa to Spain and what has been rightly termed “the aggres- 
siveness of the North African Berbers.” It was these people of North Africa 
who brought this intellectual atmosphere and the advantages of their civili- 
zation, and so put those Iberian countries at the very front and caused them, 
indeed, to be the pioneers of European global expansion. 

The invasion of the Moors on the Iberian Peninsula in 711 was unique in 
certain aspects. First, a few thousand men took over the government. Seven 
centuries later they were also driven out of the area by a few thousand armed 
men. In between those hundreds of years the majority of the population of 
both Spain and Portugal was left comparatively undisturbed. Professor 
Hamilton gives a very revealing account of the situation in Spain and Portugal 
during these seven hundred plus years: 

The overwhelming majority of the people under the caliphs were the 
same people whose descendants were to discover the world for Spain and 
Portugal. The Christian rulers displaced the political and religious power 
of the Moslem rulers. The artists, scientists, writers and ordinary people 
were the holdovers connecting the two civilizations. The Mozarabs who 
took the lead in the economic and cultural life of the new Spain were not 
Arabs, but rather were African Berbers, who, as time went by, were 
assimilated into the basic Iberian stock. Furthermore, when the Christian 
princes regained the peninsula, the old civilization was not destroyed. 
Religious art, of course, was influenced adversely, but the actual scientific 
achievements were retained, and Toledo became a great translation cen- 
ter under the Castilians. While the mral districts continued their futile 
feudalism as they had both before and during the Moslem rule, the cities 
continued to bloom, thanks to the vitalizing influence of the Mozarabs 
and the Jews. 

It was in this intellectually advanced civilization in 1394 that Prince Henry 
the Navigator was born. By that time and in the following century, Portugal 
was judged to possess a culture that had no equal north of the Pyrenees. This 
culture had travelled with the African Moors from Africa and came into full 
blossom mostly in Spain; but during the occupation, Portugal was an integral 
part of the Cordovan Caliphate. Eminent scholars have agreed that the talents 
of the Portuguese in geography and navigation have come out of this rich 
African heritage. In fact, long before the birth of Prince Henry the Navigator, 
the Spanish and African Moors had excelled in these sciences. Professor 
Hamilton explains why the Moors held pre-eminence in terrestrial mathematics 




Golden Age of the Moor 

which is essential in the science of navigation, claiming that it could be traced 
to their religion: 

Figure 6. Royal Heralds on Horseback, summoning King Henry VIII and 
the challengers to a jousting tournament held on February 11, 1511 before 
his wife Queen Catherine. One of the trumpeters is a Moor. Moors were an 
everyday sight in Tudor England. 

Their faith required them to pray at a specified time each day in the exact 
direction of Mecca. In order for the devout moslem to accomplish this it 
was necessary for him to have the geographical coordinates of his location, 
just as a mariner must have his position. Thus did geodesy become an 
exact science in the world of Islam. 

The Afro-Iberian Moors were responsible for almost all the geographical 
lore which the Europeans, primarily the Portuguese and Spanish, used in their 
global expansion. This knowledge was divided into three main categories: the 
systematic geographers and encyclopedists who incorporated the lore of the 
ancients with the discoveries of their contemporaries; the astronomers and 
geodesists who set out the groundwork for navigation and cartography; and, 
lastly, the travellers and collectors of travel accounts, thus providing the 
descriptions of the world. Through religion and trade the Muslim world 
placed great stake on travel; and more than any other peoples during those 
early centuries they travelled the length and breadth of the known world. By 
foot, camel, donkey and cows, Muslims entered remote lands. Of the travel 
accounts available at that time was the narrative of Ibn-Battutah, called the 
most widely travelled scholar of the middle ages. In the fourteenth century he 
traversed the entire span of Muslim countries, from China to Guinea. 

Another Moorish writer, Ibn-Hawkel, who wrote during that time, said that 
slaves, ivory and gold dust were important items in the Mediterranean trade. 
Up until the advent of the Moslem writers’, written information about Africa 
was very scant indeed. It was these scribes who caused information about 
Africa and travel to its interior to reach European ears, especially the people 
of Iberia and Sicily. One such traveller with whose writings Prince Henry was 
very familiar, was Ibn-Battutah. In the year 1352 Battutah penetrated the 
interior of Africa and produced the most complete portrait of the African 
peoples up to that time. Battutah had meticulously kept a chronological 
narrative of his Travels, and noted how very well he got on with the local 
rulers in the areas that he visited. He made mention on several occasions of 
having received gifts of gold dust from the African monarchs. This knowledge 
proved to be of great value, not only to Prince Henry, but to the other Iberian 
explorers who were to claim vast land masses for Portugal and Spain. 

It was in the fifteenth century that the precious metals in Europe had been 
drastically depleted due to the demands of enormous foreign trade and the 
very costly wars that had been fought and were still taking place. During that 
period due to the limitation of camel travel, bulky goods from the west could 
not stand the heavy cost of being carried to the East. The valuable goods from 
India, China and the Spice Islands, which were taken overland, had to be paid 
in gold and silver. In the past, Europe could depend on her own mines, but 

352 Golden Age of the Moor 

with the depletion due to the costliness of her wars, her merchants traded with 
Barbary using gold taken from Guinea. Consequently, it was not surprising 
that with her gold shortage, yet still requiring that precious commodity, 
Europe would turn to Africa as an untapped source of supply. It was this 
shortage of gold and other precious metal in Europe which prompted their 
penetration of Saharan Africa. 

Prince Henry and all his scholarly associates had great knowledge of this 
information about the science of the Afro-Iberian Moors. The Portuguese 
explorers became well aware that it would be the riches of Africa that would 
supply the vast amounts of gold needed by the crown of Portugal. It was these 
two factors which were the primary objectives for the Portuguese exploration 
of the lands of Africa and the Indies. These motives remained of paramount 
importance until the death of Prince Henry in 1460, and after. Professor 
Hamilton concluded that “The background of the African Moor and the lure 
of African gold broke the fetters that bound the European to Europe.” 

Much praise was heaped on the royal head of Prince Henry for the great 
part he played in the early Portuguese explorations. He has even been im- 
mortalized in the volumes of history as “Prince Henry the Navigator.” But, 
what remains minimized and almost unwritten in the pages of the history of 
Europe and its global expansion is the very vital role that the Moors played. 
For, without their scholarly writings and their extensive mastery of the 
sciences of navigation, cartography, astronomy and mathematics, the voyages 
of the Portuguese and Spanish would not have taken place then. Yet Prince 
Henry has reaped all the glory. In talking about this, Professor Hamilton 
throws true light on this legend and gives honor where honor is due: 

Prince Henry ... had swept away from the minds of even the legends of 
the unearthly terrors which had hitherto precluded voyages into the 
unknown. He had proved the feasibility of Atlantic travel and had provided 
and perfected the ships and instruments to reduce the actual dangers to be 
encountered. Diaz, Columbus, Da Gama, Cabral, Vespucci and Magellan 
were fruit of the tree planted by Prince Henry. The chains were broken by 
the lore and lure of Africa. Africa not only influenced European expansion; 
it determined it. 

The influence of the Moors ranged further afield in Europe; and it has also 
been ignored by European writers after the Africans were driven back eventually 
to Africa. Some honest historians have deplored this behavior and sought to 
include the whole story of the conquest of Europe by the Moors in their 
annals. One such scholar was John William Draper, Professor of Chemistry 
and Physiology at the University of New York in the latter years of the 
nineteenth century. In his classic work History of the Intellectual Develop - 
merit of Europe, published in 1864, Draper stated clearly: 



I have to deplore the systematic manner in which the literature of Europe 

Figure 7. The famous Rosa dos Ventos, the rudimentary compass of stones constructed by Prince Henry the Navigator at 
Sagres to instruct the explorers he was sending to sea. Prince Henry’s navigational knowledge owes an immense debt to the 
travel documents, the cartography and nautical instruments of the Moors. 




Golden Age of the Moor 

has contrived to put out of sight our scientific obligations to the 
Mohammedians. Surely they cannot be much longer hidden. Injustice 
founded on religious rancour and national conceit cannot be perpetrated 

The list of Moorish achievement is endless. Dr. Draper asks: 

What should the modern astronomer say when, remembering the contem- 
porary barbarism of Europe, he finds the Arab Abdul Hassan speaking of 
tubes, to the extremities of which ocular and object diopters, perhaps 
sights, were attached, as used at Meragha? — What, when he reads of the 
attempts of Abderahman Sufi at improving the photometry of the stars? 

Are the astronomical tables of Ebn Junis (A.D. 1008) called the Hakemite 
tables, or the Ilkanic tables of Nasser Eddin Tasi, constructed at the great 
observatory just mentioned, Meragha, near Tauris, A.D. 1259, or the 
measurement of time by pendulum oscillations, and the methods of 
correcting astronomical tables by systematic observations — are such things 
worthless indications of the mental state? The Arab (Moor) has left his 
intellectual impress on Europe, as, long before, Christendom will have to 
confess; he has indelibly written it on the heavens, as anyone may see 
who reads the names of the stars on a common celestial globe. 

In other fields of development, the Moors left Portugal and Spain far ahead 
of the rest of Europe. They set an example of skillful agriculture, cultivating 
plants, introducing many new ones; breeding cattle and sheep and fine horses. 
To them Europe owes the introduction of products like rice, sugar, cotton; and 
all the fine garden and orchard fruits, together with many less important plants 
such as spinach and saffron. The culture of silk was brought by the Moors; 
and they gave to Xeres and Malaga their knowledge of wine-making (some- 
thing for which the two Iberian countries have earned a world-wide reputation). 
But the story does not end here. The Moorish conquerors introduced the 
Egyptian system of irrigation by flood-gates, wheels and pumps. They also 
promoted many vital branches of industry; improved the manufacture of 
textiles, fabrics, earthenware, iron, and steel; the Toledo sword-blades were 
valued everywhere for their power. On their expulsion from Spain and 
Portugal, the Moors carried the manufacture of a kind of leather, in which 
they were acknowledged to excel, to Morocco. It is known throughout the 
world for its excellence as Moroccan leather. 

The Moors also introduced inventions of a more ominous nature — gun- 
powder and artillery. The cannon they used appears to have been forged from 
wrought iron. But of more value to Portugal and Spain was the introduction of 
the mariner’s compass; something which aided the explorers of Iberia to gain 
control of vast expanses of the New World. 

Armed with the gun, its manufacture made possible by gunpowder brought 
by the Moors, and with their ships using lateen sails, astrolabes and nautical 
compasses, all the inventions of the Afro-Arab Moors, the Portuguese and 

Spanish set sail to rob the resources of others. In the words of a Ghanaian 
scholar, Samuel Kennedy Yeboah, “The Europeans unleashed a concerted 
and, in some cases, genocidal (e.g. the aborigines and some of the Amerindians) 
onslaught against the rest of the world.” 

What were Spain and Portugal like when the illustrious Moors were finally 
driven off from these Iberian lands? They left farming, the arts, sciences; 
beautiful cities with magnificent buildings, gardens, streets and a culture and 
civilization far surpassing that of the rest of Europe. The city of Cordova, 
under their administration, at its highest point of posterity had more than 
200,000 houses and over a million inhabitants. At night one could walk 
through it in a straight line for ten miles by the light of the public lamps. Seven 
hundred years after this time there was not as much as one public lamp in 
London. The streets of Cordova' were solidly paved. In Paris, centuries later, 
whoever walked over his threshold on a rainy day would be covered in mud 
right up to his ankles. Other Iberian cities like Granada, Seville, Toledo, 
Lisbon, considered themselves rivals in magnificence with Cordova. The 
palaces of the Khalifs were handsomely decorated. 

But this beauty, this culture, this civilization was not to last very long under 
the barbarous handling by the Christians of Aragon, Castile and Portugal. 
They defiled the holy name of religion with its intrigues, its bloodshed, its 
oppression of human thought, its hatred of intellectual advancement. This 
condition of destruction and decay is painstakenly described in the words of 
Stanley-Lane Poole in his classic “The Story of the Moors in Spain”: 

In 1492 the last bulwark of the Moors gave way before the crusade of 
Ferdinand and Isabella, and with Granada fell all Spain’s greatness. For a 
brief while, indeed, the reflection of the Moorish splendor cast a borrowed 
light on the history of the land which it had once warmed with its sunny 
radiance ... Then followed the abomination of desolation, the rule of the 
Inquisition, and the blackness of darkness in which Spain had been 
plunged ever since ... and beggars, friars and bandits took the place of 
scholars, merchants and knights. So low fell Spain when she had driven 
away the Moors. Such is the melancholy contrast offered by her history. 

The Moorish contact with Portugal was to have more dire consequences for 
Africa and African peoples. To begin with the effects of Muslim civilization 
on Europe, particularly Portugal, is closely linked to the effort to reconstruct 
the processes by which the African past was extracted from European con- 
sciousness. There is little doubt that one of the greatest ironies of this history 
was the founding of the Portuguese state and the elite class that ran it. The 
“Age of Discovery,” which Portugal, initially from the learnings of Prince 
Henry, extracted and copied from Muslim scholarship, marks the beginning 
of the modern era in European development. This expansion of the Portu- 
guese into Africa and the New World set in motion the encounters between 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 8. Prince Henry the Navigator. 



the peoples of the European peninsula and the African peoples. This was to 
lead into the Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery, two of the greatest disasters 
which Africans suffered, and from which they have not yet recovered. One 
scholar went as far as to claim that this catastrophic meeting was to “produce 
the Negro.” It was at this point that the stereotype first showed its face on the 
map and the histories of Europe. 

What has been ignored by Eurocentric historians — and this is a deliberate 
act — is that the beginning and the formation of the Portuguese state were the 
results of processes both directly and indirectly related to Muslim civilization. 
Prince Henry the Navigator has been credited with harnessing the energies of 
Portugal and the resources of the Order of Christ with the skills, the instruments, 
the most developed seamanship, the navigational wisdom — all copied and 
learnt from Muslim mathematicians, cartographers, astronomers and geogra- 
phers. Where and from whom this ascetic, celibate and reclusive son of Joao 
of Avis and his English-born queen, Philippa, accumulated this vast reservoir 
of scientific and navigational knowledge has always been played down or 
ignored out of hand. Portugal has always gone to great lengths to believe that 
its development and expansion into the rest of the world has been a history of 
its own doing without Muslim impact; and has believed that story with such 
intensity that she was quite successful, bit by bit, in incorporating both an 
imagined history dnd the habit of always feeding it into the process of her 
authentic existence. That is why it has been claimed that all Portugal’s 
imperial enterprises; the lasting effect of Portugal in Brazil, in the East Indies, 
and in Africa; the celebrated figures of Vasco de Gama, Alfonso de Albu- 
querque, Ferdinand Magellan, and others; the works of Gil Vincente and 
Camoens — have all been the elements that have motivated the creation and 
recreation of the origins of Portugal. Without the knowledge, intellect, learning 
and artistic brilliance of the African Moors, this Renaissance Portugal would 
have never, and I repeat never, come about. 

But, this is a condition or reality which relates not only to Portugal, and 
Spain, but the rest of the latecomers of Europe, as well. Eurocentric scholar- 
ship cannot come to grips with this fact of history; and therein lies its tragedy. 
It is absolutely no exaggeration to state categorically, that Islam had provided 
for, not only Portugal and Spain, but the rest of emerging Europe a powerful, 
economic, scientific, artistic, political impulse; an impulse which led to 
European domination of the world. Eurocentric scholars boast that the Re- 
naissance aroused Europe from its Dark age slumber. And they stop at this 
blank, empty statement which has no Caucasoid base on which to stand. They 
shy away from the truth, the total truth that but for Muslim knowledge this 
awakening would never have come about; certainly not at the time that it did. 

It is lamentable that the European foray into Africa and other lands across 
the seas was initiated by Portugal using the knowledge gained from Africans 
in order to conquer, colonize, rape, exploit, oppress, maim and murder other 




Golden Age of the Moor 

Africans they had captured and chained in the prison plantations of slavery. 
The Moors themselves who were banished from Portugal and Spain suffered 
the same horrible fate that their descendants were to endure. 

How were the Moors recompensed for their phenomenal contribution in 
civilizing Spain, Portugal and other areas of a Europe steeped in barbarism 
and darkness? The nineteenth century English scholar, Stanley Lane-Poole, 
paints a picture of European savagery of the lowest form in their genocide of 
the Moors. 50,000 of them were brutally murdered on the famous Day of All 
Saints, 1570, when the honor of the apostles and the martyrs of Christendom 
was celebrated by the virtual martyrdom of these Moors ... No less than three 
million Moors were banished by the first decade of the seventeenth century. 
To use the words of the Franciscan priest Bartholomew Las Cascas, during 
the Columbian era, when these dastardly deeds were being perpetrated on the 
Moors, “Moloch must have been in the skies.” 

Spain and Portugal did not escape retribution. Where once wit and learning 
flourished, a general stagnation and degradation had fallen on their people 
and lands. Historians are agreed that they deserved their humiliation. Such is 
the terrible price that Spain and Portugal had to pay for their treatment of the 
Moors. As Stanley Lane-Poole concluded: “They did not understand that they 
had killed their golden goose.” 

Read, Jan. The Moors in Spain and Portugal Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield, 

Robinson, Cedric J. Black Marxism. London: Zed Press, 1983. 

Rogers, Joel A. Sex and Race , Vol. 1. New York: Rogers, 1940. 

Rogers, Joel A. Africa's Gift to America. New York: Rogers 1959. 

Rogers, Joel A. Nature Knows No Color-Line: Research Into the Negro Ancestry in 
the White Race . 3rd ed. New York: Rogers, 1952. 

Rogers, Joel A. World's Great Men of Color, 2 Vols. New York: Collier, 1972. 

Scobie, Edward. “Africa in Portugal.” Flamingo (Feb. 1962). 

Scott, S.P. History of the Moorish Empire in Europe. London: J.P. Lippincott, 1904. 

Townson, Duncan. Muslim Spain, n.p.: Lemer Publications Co., 1979. 

Williams, Chancellor, The Destruction of Black Civilization. Rev. ed. Chicago: Third 
World Press, 1976. 

Windsor, Rudolph R. From Babylon to Timbuktu. New York: Exposition Press, 1969. 

Woodson, Carter Godwin. African Heroes and Heroines. Washington, D.C.: Associ- 
ated Publishers, 1939. 


Barashango, Ishakamusa. African People and European Holidays : A Mental Geno- 
cide, Washington, D.C.: IV Dynasty Publishing Co., 1983. 

Bennett, Norman R. Africa and Europe. New York: Africana Publishing Co., 1975. 

Bovill, E.W. The Golden Trade of the Moors . Rev. ed. London: Oxford University 
Press, 1970. 

Cox, George O. African Empires and Civilizations: Ancient and Medieval. New York: 
African Heritage Studies Publishers, 1974. 

Davidson, Basil. Discovering Our African Heritage, n.p.: Ginn & Co., 1971. 

DeBrunner, Hans Werner. Presence and Prestige: Africans in Europe, n.p.: Basler 
Afrika Bibliographien, 1979. 

DeGraft-Johnson, J.C. African Glory: The Story of Vanished Negro Civilizations. 
1954; rpt. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1986. 

Draper, John William. History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, Vol. 2. 
London: Bell & Dalby, 1864. 

Hamilton, T. “The African Heritage in European Expansion,” Journal of Ethnic 
Studies (Sep. 1976). 

Jackson, John G. Man, God, and Civilization. New Hyde Park: University Books, 

Jackson, John G. Ages of Gold and Silver. Austin: American Atheist Press, 1990. 

Lane-Poole, Stanley. The Moors in Spain. 1887; rpt. Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 

Livermore, H.V. The Origins of Spain and Portugal. London: n.p., 1971. 

MacRitchie, David . Ancient and Modern Britons: A Retrospect, Vol. 1. London: Kegan 
Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1884. 




Mamadou Chinyelu 


Little is known about the role that black Africans played in the Moorish 
conquest and eight hundred years of Moorish rule in the Iberian Peninsula. It 
is also largely unknown that Africans played crucial and seminal roles in the 
early development of Islam and its spread across north, east and west Africa. 
Yet, historical evidence reveals that black Africans not only participated in 
both of these monumental historical events, but were pivotal to their success. 

In the following essay, we will explore important cultural, religious, scientific 
and military contributions that black Africans made to Islam and, in particu- 
lar, the role they played in Moorish Spain. 

Africans in the Islamic Tradition 

Since the revelation that inspired Mohammed in 622 A.D., Africans have 
been pivotal figures in the development of the Islamic faith. In fact, there is no 
time in the history of the faith that Islam can be disassociated from Africans. 
African blood figures in Mohammed’s lineage and Africans in his upbringing 
and development. Washington Irving, in his Life of Mohamet , says that 
Mohammed was reared by Barakat, an African woman, after the Prophet’s 
mother died. 1 D.S. Margoliouth says of the sons of Abd al-Muttalib, 
Mohammed’s grandfather, that, “all ten sons ... were of massive build and 
dark colour.” 2 It is also a fact that Mohammed’s first convert was Bilal, an 
Ethiopian. J.A. Rogers calls Bilal, Mohammed’s “closest and most honored 
friend until his death,” and goes on to say that most of the earliest disciples 
were Africans, including another convert, Zayd bin Harith, the Prophet’s 
adopted son and one of his great generals. 3 

The close proximity of Arabia to Africa would also suggest that there were 
ample opportunities for an interchange of peoples, religion and custom. 
Drusilla D. Houston asserts that, “Arabia was originally settled by two 
distinct races, an earlier 'Cushite Ethiopian’ race and later Semites. The 
Cushites were the original Arabians.” 4 Not only were the Ethiopians the 
original inhabitants of Arabia, but, according to Cheikh Anta Diop, Africans 
were the only inhabitants “prior to the eighteenth century B.C.” 5 Houston puts 


Figure I. The Moors are here engaged in battle with forces led by Charles Martel, the Frank, at Poitiers (southern France) 
in 732 A.D. Though the Moors lost the battle, they entered France in 716 A.D. and controlled the southern portion of that 
country until 1140 A.D. This illustration comes from a Middle Ages manuscript. 

Figure 2. Ya, Shah (Oh King!), which signifies a challenge, is better known today as chess. The Moorish Caliph Harun al 
Rashid gave Charlemagne, First emperor of the so-called Holy Roman empire, a chess set in the ninth century. Here we have 
a thirteenth century illustration (from the manuscript of Cantigas de Alphonso X) of a leisure class of Moors in Spain playing 
chess and being served by both white and black servants. 



the arrival of the Semites in Arabia at an even later date, at about 1300 B.C 6 
Moreover, one ancient map of Africa, drawn in the basis of Herodotus’ 
description of Africa, made in 450 B.C., has Arabia as a prominent part of the 
continent. 7 And the question must be asked: Are the “Two Shores” mentioned 
in The Teachings of Ptahhotep (first published about 2500 B.C.) 8 a reference 
to the two shores of the Red Sea, which separates Africa from Arabia? 9 
Perhaps, the meaning of the “Two Shores” is esoteric, such as the ‘duality and 
harmony of opposites?’ It is unlikely that it is a reference to the two shores of 
the Nile River. Even with the arrival of the Semitic Arabians around 1300 
B.C., the current inhabitants of that land, it is inconceivable that all of the 
African presence subsequently vanished from Arabia. In fact, today, Arabia is 
known as “Saudi Arabia,” named in honor of Abdul Aziz Ibn-Saud, who 
Rogers says was a man of African descent living from 1880 to 1953 and 
known as “the foremost man in the Arab world of his time.” 10 

It was during the Semitic rule of Arabia that Islam emerged. By that time, 
the Semites or Indo-Europeans had been in Arabia for nearly 2,000 years. Yet, 
the question remains: What did the Semites contribute to the culture of 
Arabia? Godfrey Higgins says that, “it is clear that the African Ethiopic and 
Arabic have originally been identical.” 11 

Edward Wilmont Blyden says of Mohammed, “when in the early years of 
his reform, his followers were persecuted in Arabia, he advised them to seek 
asylum in Africa. ‘Yonder,’ he said ... ‘Yonder lieth a country wherein no 
man is wronged — a land of righteousness.’ ” 12 When the Islamic converts in- 
vaded Egypt, it was ruled by the Eastern Roman Empire, the Byzantines. The 
Byzantine oppression of the Africans gave the Ethiopic Arabian Muslims the 
popular support and, hence, leverage they needed to challenge the Europeans. 
According to Du Bois, “the Arabs invaded African Egypt, taking it from 
Eastern Roman Emperors and securing as allies the native Negroid Egyptians, 
now called Copts, and using Sudanese blacks ... in their armies .... [and] One 
of Mohammed’s wives was an African woman named May.” 13 

Apparently, it was not religion that put the Byzantines and Muslims at odds 
with one another, because both Christianity and Islam are fundamentally 
alike. Rather, it was the cultural differences as seen in the different ways in 
which Christians and Muslims interpreted their sister religions. In discussing 
the common origins of the two, Du Bois says, “Byzantium, through 
Constantinople, handed Greek culture back to Asia and Africa, whence it 
came. At Baghdad and Alexandria and Cairo it flamed anew under Islam. It 
was not ‘Arabian’; the nomad Arabs carried culture but seldom originated 
it.” 14 Here, we must be reminded, Du Bois is referring to the Semitic Arabian, 
because there is ample evidence that the Ethiopic Arabian, the Africans, 
contributed much to the culture of Islam. For example, there was the poet 
Antar, who was an Ethiopic Arabian, so black that his nickname was Gharab , 
‘the crow.’ 15 Antar accomplished great feats as a warrior and poet in pre- 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Islamic Arabia. One of his poems was accorded the highest honor possible for 
an Arabian writer. Though he was not a Muslim, his work hangs among the 
seven poems at the entrance of the mosque at Mecca. This collection of seven 
poems, known as the Moallakat , are cherished by those of the Islamic faith. 16 
Of slightly less reverence, although no less important, are, as Du Bois says, 
“Black historians, like Abderrahman Es-Sadi,” who wrote the “Bible of the 
Sudan,” the Tarikes-Sudan; and the Tarikh-el-Fettach. 17 

The Spread of Islam in North Africa 

Ten years after the death of Mohammed in 632 A.D., the Muslims conquered 
Egypt and from there, conquerors armed with the sword and the Koran, 
marched triumphantly across North Africa. 

By the time Islam began to spread from east to west, North Africa had 
already suffered from the comings and goings of other conquering elements 
beginning around 822 B.C. with the Phoenicians. Prior to their arrival, how- 
ever, it would appear from the writings of Herodotus and archaeological 
finds, that North Africans had enjoyed a high degree of civilization, a testament 
to their long history of peace and harmony. While describing the Eastern 
Ethiopian empire as being the same as Arabia, Herodotus also states that the 
Western Ethiopia empire stretched as far west as present-day Sierra Leone 
and Liberia. 18 Herodotus, himself, lived in the fifth century B.C. and the 
period to which he refers was 1800 B.C., the same time when Africans 
inhabited Arabia according to Rogers and Houston. 

Archaeologists have also discovered cave drawings in North Africa which 
they have dated to a period prior to the Christian era. The subjects of these 
drawings are clearly African. Although there are no facial features in two of 
them, the voluptuous buttocks of the women reveal their African identity. 19 
These drawings depict people herding cattle, making fire, children playing, 
and a woman and man on an animal-drawn cart, waving to two women and a 
child as a dog scampers ahead of the cart. There are no Europeans in these 
drawings, nor is there any evidence that the people in the drawings are subject 
to the rule of others. The third drawing is of a man carrying a sheep on his 
back, straddling his shoulders. Both the sheep’s wool and the man’s hair and 
full beard are represented as having the same coarse texture, like that of 
Africans. 20 

The invasions of conquering armies began with the Phoenicians, a seagoing 
people, who sailed from Canaan (present-day Palestine). The name 
“Phoenician,” itself, is the name the Greeks gave to the Canaanites. 21 And 
according to the Biblical tradition, Canaan was the son of Ham, the African. 
Thus, the Phoenician invasion was, in essence, one of one group of African 
people assuming power over another. Rome supplanted Phoenician rule of 
North Africa in 146 B.C., and maintained its dominance until 430 A.D., the 



Figure 3. Caspar, a fifteenth century African altar boy, of the Cisterian abbey 
at Lichtenthal in Baden-Wurttemberg, in the Upper Rhine region of Germany. 
The Moorish presence in southern Europe was felt throughout Europe. 




Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 4. Here is the highly celebrated portrait entitled “Juan de Pareja” by 
the seventeenth century Spanish artist Diego Velasquez. In the Spanish 
language “pareja” means partner, so it is possible that Juan was also an artist. 
Velasquez, who was commissioned to do a portrait of the Roman Catholic 
pope, did this portrait of Juan as preparation for the commission. 

year the Vandals, a Germanic tribe, made their first conquests in North Africa. 
The Vandals remained in power until 530 A.D., when the Eastern Roman 
Empire, the Byzantines based in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), 
reconquered it in the name of the Roman Empire. Except for a brief ten-year 
period (619-629 A.D.), when they lost control to the Persians, the Byzantines 
dominated the region until 642 A.D., when the followers of Islam appeared. 

It must be noted that prior to the Islamic invasion, the Egyptian African 
population, which was in the majority, suffered greatly from the religious 
intolerance of the Christians (Byzantines) and Zoroastrians (Persians). J.C. 
deGraft-Johnson says that the Coptic Church was the “true expression of 
African nationalism.” 22 He quotes H.G. Wells as saying that, “In both Persia 
and Byzantium it was an age of intolerance. Both empires were theocratic 
empires, the fundamentalists of an earlier age, whose narrow focus greatly 
hampered the free activities of the human mind.” 23 These African Copts no 
doubt saw the African Muslims from Arabia as liberators; after all they were 
kith and kin. Blyden also makes note of the fact that Mohammed never spoke 
of a curse on Africa or Africans, unlike the Christians and their infamous 
curse put on the children of Ham. 24 

With the many incursions into North Africa over a period of 1,400 years, 
one question seems more prominent than others: How did these invading 
populations affect the racial makeup of the North Africans? J. Desanges says 
that the African population was not whitened by these invasions. In assessing 
the racial impact, he writes, 

... it would not seem that the Phoenician and Roman demographic 
accretions were of any consequence.... It is unlikely ... that the 
Carthaginians would have such a constant recourse to mercenaries on the 
battlefield if those of Phoenician origin had been more numerous. The 
demographic contribution of the Romans is also difficult to evaluate. The 
number of Italians settled in Africa in the time of Augustus, when 
colonization was at its peak, has been estimated at 15,000.... In our view 
some 20,000 colonists would be the maximum for the Augustian period, 
for Roman Africa was in no way a mass-settlement area. The demographic 
contributions of Vandals and Byzantines were undoubtedly far more 
modest. 25 

Of all the conquerors of North Africa, the Vandals alone were not colonizers 
whose kith and kin remained in a home country. Their total population 
migrated to Africa. But, deGraft-Johnson says that, the Vandals probably had 
less impact on racial amalgamation in North Africa than did the other groups: 
It is said that the Vandals remained a distinct group; that they never merged 
into another society nor were transformed or modified by travel, but kept 
themselves always apart, and that eventually, through their very inability to 
adapt, they perished.” 26 

What is apparent thus far, is that after conquerors came and went, the North 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Figure 5. “Moorish Army in Retreat” is the title of this thirteenth century 
illustration. It comes from the manuscript of the Cantigas de Alfonso X, the 
original of which can be found in the Escurial Library in Spain. The Cantigas 
is a collection of 400 poems to be set to music, primarily written by Alfonso X, 
a thirteenth century king of Castile, who was nicknamed “the wise.” 



African racial identity had not been fundamentally altered. In fact, according 
to Rogers, “even as late as the fifth century A.D. Procopius, Roman historian, 
calls the people of Morocco ‘black.’ ” 27 

One major problem encountered in recovering Africa’s history is that 
Africans throughout their long and varied existence have been known by a 
countless number of names. ‘Berber’ is one such name. When the Africans in 
the northern part of the continent first assumed the name is not certain, but by 
the time of the Islamic conquest, this name was in common usage. Reinhart 
Dozy says that the name ‘Berber’ was applied to, “the people of Africa 
especially — that agglomeration of heterogeneous elements which the Arabs 
found established from Egypt to the Atlantic.” 28 And Rogers says that, “The 
Berbers claimed descent from the Mazoi, the Negro soldiers of ancient 
Egypt.” 29 

It was these Berbers, converts to Islam, who conquered Spain in 711 A.D. 
Thomas Arnold and Alfred Guillaume say of that conquering army that, “The 

Figure 6. General Bassa, one of the great military figures in Mulai Ismael’s 
army. Mulai Ismail needed such great military leaders. According to J.A. 
Rogers in Nature Knows No Color Line, Mulai Ismael’s path to the throne was 
not easy. On the death of his brother Rashid, he was forced to fight his nephew, 
Achmet. The contest between them was long and bloody, Mulai Ismael finally 
defeating Achmet in a great artillery battle and capturing him. The drawing 
of Bassa was done during the general’s life. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

leader of the first successful expedition into Spain, Tariq (Tarik), was not an 
Arab but a Berber, and so were a large portion of his followers; the actual 
figures given are 300 Arabs and 7,000 Berbers/’ 30 Dozy supports this domi- 
nant role but puts the Berber numbers at 5,000 more than Arnold and 
Guillaume— 12,000. He says, “The Berbers had been the true conquerors of 
the country [Spain], Musa and his Arabs had merely reaped the fruits of the 
victory gained by Tarik and his twelve thousand Berbers over the army of the 
Visigoths.” 31 Du Bois says that once these Berbers conquered Spain, the 
Europeans began to refer to them as ‘Moors’, as in ‘Blackamoors’ and 
‘Tawny Moors.’ 32 This is in keeping with other European languages, such as 
German Mauren and Dutch Moorrees. Rogers says that, “to the earlier Greeks, 
the Moors were ‘a black or dark people’ (Mauros) and to the Romans, 
Maurus, a black and wooly-haired people.” 33 

Interestingly, in the fourteen century, Duarte Barbosa of Portugal refers to 
the black people he encounters when travelling along the coast of East 
Africa — near the border of Kenya and Tanzania — as ‘Moors.’ 34 East Africa 
also became a part of the Islamic empire. Dar es Salaam, the capital of 
Tanzania, means “the land of Islam.” Thus, it would appear that these Africans 
were of the same people as those who lived in Barbosa’s native land. 

These Moors, the African Muslims, not only provided the rank and file of 
the conquering Islamic army, but also the leadership. 

Moorish Leaders in Spain 

The eight hundred years of Moorish rule of Spain undoubtedly produced 
innumerable outstanding personages. But, three, in particular, stand out more 
than any others: Tarik, who brought Moorish rule to Spain in 711 A.D.; Yusuf 
ibn Tashifin, leader of the Almoravids, another African Muslim group who 
assumed the rule beginning in 1086 A.D.; and Yakub Al-Mansur, leader of 
still another African Muslim group, the Almohades (Unitarians), who re- 
placed the Almoravids in 1194 A.D. 

The fact that Rogers does not include a biography of Tarik in his World's 
Great Men of Color, published in 1946, raises some questions about Tarik’s 
ancestry, particularly since some scholars contend that Roger’s criteria for 
establishing African ancestry is sometimes less than sound. Rogers’ detractors 
conclude, therefore, that even he could not find the thinnest of evidence to 
assert Tarik’s African ancestry. But, in two later works, Rogers does say that 
Tarik is an African. 35 It must be concluded, then, that Rogers had not yet 
documented this fact by 1946, and, not willing to risk his credibility, did not 
include Tarik in the volume. Interestingly, though he subsequently reaffirms 
Tarik’s African ancestry, he does not give any references. Still, other scholars 
have supported him. Du Bois says that Tarik is of African descent. 36 DeGraft- 
Johnson refers to Tarik as an African no less than five times. 37 Arnold and 



Guillaume call Tarik a ‘Berber.’ 38 And Dozy describes Tarik as a ‘Berber,’ 
“the people of Africa . . . which the Arabs found established from Egypt to the 
Atlantic.” 39 

Shortly after the Islamic conquest of North Africa in 708 A.D., Tarik was 
placed in charge of Morocco by the Muslim governor, Musa ibn Nusair. 
Tarik s protectorate included all but Cueta, a city-state near present day 
Tangiers, which was ruled by Count Julian. Julian had been allied with Spain, 
which was then under the rule of the Visigothic King Roderic-that is, until 
Julian accused King Roderic of raping his daughter. To avenge this act, Julian 
encouraged Tarik to invade Spain. After having received permission from 
Musa in 711 A.D., Tarik took a scouting force to Spain to assess the prospects 
of an invasion. And while there, he decided to attack Roderic and proceed 

Figure 7. Mulai Rashid was emperor of Morocco from 1631 to 1672. J.A. 
Rogers called this portrait of Rashid an “authentic portrait/’ After him, his 
brother Mulai Ismael, ruled Morocco, with General Bassa as the leading 
military figure. All of these men were indisputably African. While there is no 
authentic portrait” of Mulai Ismael, there is an eyewitness account of his 
appearance by Abbe Busnot, a Frenchman w ho met him as an emissary of the 
French monarch, which account describes him thus: “He is of middle size; his 
face is long and thin, and his beard, forked and white; his color, almost black 
with a white mark near the nose; his eyes full of fire... 


Golden Age of the Moor 

with the conquest of Spain. 40 Tank’s forces were heavily outnumbered by the 
Visigoths, but rather than retreat back to Africa, Tarik rallied his legions. 
“Men, before you is the enemy and the sea is at your backs. By Allah, there is 
no escape for you save in valor and resolution.” His men proclaimed their 
support for Tarik, saying, “We will follow thee, 0 Tarik.” Roderic was killed 
and his army defeated. 41 

Tarik took Spain in the name of the Islamic empire and, in the process, his 
name was immortalized with a mountain, Gebel Tarik (hill of Tarik or 
Gibraltar), named in his honor. Dozy says that Musa was jealous of Tarik’s 
conquest, having planned to lead the conquering army himself and he repri- 
manded Tarik, saying, “Why has thou advanced without my permission? I 
ordered thee only to make a foray and immediately to return to Africa.” 42 

All of Spain was conquered by the Moors. According to Arnold, the Moors 
were welcomed not only by the slaves in Spain, but also by the lower and 
middle classes, and the Jews, all of whom were severely persecuted by the 
Christian Visigoths. In fact, except for the Jews, many of the other oppressed 
Spaniards, including many Christian noblemen, converted to Islam 43 

Parts of other European regions were conquered by the Moors as well: 

Seven years after the capture of Gibraltar the Moors invaded France; and 
conquered and overran most of its southern portion. They probably went 
as far as Geneva. Switzerland was then a part of France .... They 
remained in Southern France, however, until 1140 .... Aided by fellow 
Moslems from the East they captured Sicily in 837 and took a million 
pieces of gold. In 846, they invaded Italy, seized Rome, plundered the 
Vatican and St. Peter’s Cathedral and carried off immense wealth in gold, 
jewelry, tapestry, and paintings. Later with Jews as intermediary[ies], 
they sold back much of this loot to the Pope. 44 

Thus, it was Tarik who paved the way for the eight-hundred-year Moorish 
domination of Spain. Although Tarik, himself, never ruled Spain, other 
Moors did. One of the most celebrated of these Moorish rulers was Yusuf ibn 

Yusufs African ancestry can be documented. According to the Moorish 
historian Ali ibn Abd Allah, in his Roudh el-Kartas (from Beaumier’s French 
translation), Yusuf was “teint brun, taille moyenne, maigre, peu de barbe, 
voix douce, yeux noirs, nez aquilin, meche de Mohammed retombant sur le 
bout de l’oreille, sourcils joints Fun a l’autre, cheveux crepus.” 45 (“Brown color, 
middle height, thin, little beard, soft voice, black eyes, straight nose, lock of 
Mohammed falling on the top of his ear, eye -brow joined, wooly hair.” 46 
Roudh el-Kartas was published in 1326, 218 years after Yusufs death and 
132 years after his Almoravid Moors lost control of Spain. But, because 
Yusuf lived 101 years, it is entirely possible that his exploits and particulars, 
including race, were vividly remembered for several generations after his 
death. A review of his exploits clearly illustrates why. 



Rogers gives the most complete account in his World's Great Men of 
Color , Vol 1. The Almoravids — which meant “the religious men” — were 
masters of northwest Africa. 47 Unlike the Andalusian Moors who had already 
been in Spain for 300 years, these Almoravids, whose domain was the Sahara, 
were more war-like by virtue of the terrain on which they lived. Though of the 
same race and religion as the “Andalusians,” the Almoravids were not origi- 
nally welcomed in Spain. At least, not until they were needed by the 
“Andalusians.” Under the leadership of King Alphonso VI and Rodrigo Diaz 
de Bivar, better known as “el Cid,” the Christians had begun waging battle 
after battle to reclaim Spain for the cross. According to Dozy, 

The idea of calling in the aid of the Almoravides appealed chiefly to the 
religious[faithfuI]. The princes, on the other hand, for a long time hesitated. 

Some of them . . . kept up a correspondence with Yusuf ibn Tashifin, King 
of the Almoravides, and they had more than once gone so far as to seek 
his aid against the Christians; but the Andalusian princes as a whole had 
little sympathy with the chief of the barbarous and fanatical warriors of 
the Sahara, regarding him more as a dangerous rival than an ally. But the 
daily waxing peril rendered it necessary to grasp the only remaining 
means of safety. Such at least was Mu’tamid’s opinion, when his eldest 
son, Rashid, pointed out the danger of introducing the Almoravides into 
Spain, he replied: 'That is true, but I have no desire to be branded by my 
descendants as the man who delivered Andalusia a prey to the infidels 
[Christians]; I am loath to have my name cursed in every Moslem pulpit; 
and for my part, I would rather be a cameldriver in Africa than a 
swineherd in Castile.’ Mu’tamid [of Toledo] encouraged the princes of 
Badajoz and Granada to join with him in inviting Yusuf to Spain. 48 

Yusuf was invited with the stipulation that he and his men return to Africa 
after defeating the Christians. Yusuf accepted those terms. According to 
Rogers, of his 15,000 men, 6,000 were Senegalese, “jet black and of unmixed 
descent.” 49 The Almoravids routed Alphonso Vi’s army of 70,000 at Zalacca, 
in October, 1086. 50 

The Christians assembled another army and, again, Yusuf agreed to defend 
the Islamic empire. “By 1091 Yusuf had reunited ail of Moslem Spain except 
for Zaragoza and this was recaptured by his successor.” 51 Driven both by the 
euphoria of victory and incensed by the weakness of his Moorish brethren in 
Spain, Yusuf decided to stay and rule. 

Besides conquering Spain, to Yusuf’s credit, the Almoravids also conquered 
Morocco and Algeria. He is said to have founded the city of Marrakesh. 
Under Yusuf’s rule, the Almoravid’s empire ran from the Senegal River in 
West Africa to the Ebro River in Spain, earning the name of the Empire of the 

* Editor’s Note: The author is using the word “Andalusian” here to refer to the 
invading Moors rather than the natives of Spain, which the Moors had renamed Al- 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Two Shores. 52 When their power waned, they were dethroned by the Almohade 
Moors in 1189. 

During the Almohades’ prominence on the world stage, they were under 
the leadership of Yakub Al-Mansur. Al-Mansur was not only a military 
genius, he was a man of culture. In Beaumier’s French translation of historian 
Ali ibn Abd Allah’s text, Yakub Al-Mansur is described as, “Etait fils d’une 
negresse qui avait ete donnee a son pere, et il naquit dans la maison de son 
grandpere, Abd el-Moumen, a Maroc, Fan 555. ” 53 (“He was the son of a Ne- 
gro woman who had been given to his father and he was born in the house of 
his grandfather, Abd el Mumen.”) 54 Like Y'usuf ibn Tashifin, this history, 
published in 1326, says that Al-Mansur was brown in color 55 and the historian 
was recording these facts a mere 127 years after Al-Mansur’s death in 1199 

According to Rogers, Yakub Al-Mansur conquered Spain and Portugal on 
three separate occasions, while intermittently returning to Africa. His victory 
in 1189 seems to have been in retaliation for his father’s death at the hands of 
the Christians in Portugal in 1184. Afterward, he returned to Africa to counter 
an uprising by the Almoravids. At the same time, the Christians assumed that 
the Almohades could not manage two theatres of war and made an all-out 
attack on the Moorish empire. Al-Mansur and his legion of African soldiers 
returned to Spain in 1191 to repeat their earlier conquest, before again 
returning to Africa. The final conquest came in 1194, when the Almohades 
defeated an army of 300,000 Christians. In his time, Yakub Al-Mansur was 
considered the most powerful ruler in the world. He was also a builder of great 
cities, as well as enduring monuments, such as the Giralda in Seville, which 
stands even today. 56 

These three notable military geniuses are but a portion of the irrefutable 
evidence of the significant role that African Muslims played in the conquering 
and ruling of Spain. But there is other evidence as well. For example, on a 
mountainside at Granada, there are the words, “Barranco de los Negroes” 
(“Barracks of the Negroes”) inscribed on what Rogers terms “tunnelled-out 
homes.” 57 Then there is the coat of arms of the Almoravids, which shows the 
heads of four black African kings. According to one account, the heads of 
these four kings, which were crowned with precious jewels, were decapitated 
(“separada del tronco su negra cabeza”) in battle by the Christian forces of 
Pedro I in 1086. 58 Rogers published a painting of Moorish chess players in 
Spain, complete with a white servant, taken from the thirteenth century 
manuscript of Alfonso le Sage. 59 On the same page, Rogers showed two 
paintings of African Muslims from Morocco, one General Bassa and the 
second, Prince Mulai Arsheid (Rashid). An illustration of Rashid’s brother, 
Mulai Ismael, who was King of Morocco, appears in Rogers’ World’s Great 
Men of Color. 60 While it is true that the kingdoms of these two African 
Muslim rulers did not include Spain, it demonstrates that after the Moors were 



pushed back to Africa, they returned to their ancestral home which was still 
under the rule of their people. 

Also of importance is the painting by the seventeenth century Spanish 
artist, Diego Velazquez, entitled, “Juan de Pareja.” As the painting (now 
hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) so vividly illustrates, 
Juan de Pareja — who was a friend of the artist — was an almond-colored 
African with all of the features typical of his ancestry. This painting was done 
in 1648, 38 years after the Moors were finally expelled from Spain. It must be 
kept in mind that by this period, some of the African Muslims in Spain had 
become Christians. Unlike that which the Christians would subsequently do 
to the Muslims, the Muslims had tolerated the existence of Christians in 
Spain, although it was a custom to tax them heavily. Juan de Pareja, having a 
Spanish name (rather than Arabic) was undoubtedly from a family of one of 
these African Christians who were permitted to remain in Spain. 

African Muslims were not only vital in the conquest and rule of Moorish 
Spain, but made significant contributions to other parts of the Islamic world. 
One of the most prolific Islamic writers of the Middle Ages was an African, 
A1 Jahiz wrote several books, including works on zoology. He is best re- 
membered for Kitab al Sudan wa ' l-Bidan (The Superiority in Glory of the 
Black Race Over the White). 61 Another African Muslim, Nedjeh, and his de- 
scendants ruled Arabia from 1020 to 1 158 A.D. 62 And, as noted earlier, Tarik- 
es-Sudan, published in 1640 by the African Muslim historian Abderrahman 
Es-Sadi, is often referred to as the “Bible of the Sudan.” 

While the contributions of Africans to the Islamic empire from its founda- 
tion to the present are too numerous to be considered, one event in particular 
stands out as a demonstration of the high esteem in which Africans were held. 
At the height of the Crusades, when the Islamic world was under heavy 
assault by the Christians, Saladin — the Sultan of Egypt, Palestine and Syria — 
turned to Yakub Al-Mansur for help. 63 As Rogers says, “During the Crusades 
(1096-1270) so many Negroes were taken out of Ethiopia and the Sudan to 
fight the white Christian invader that in 1196 Negro troops in Egypt '50,000 
strong dominated the court and the armies.’ The Marshal of the Palace, a 
Negro eunuch, the Moutamen Elkhelafe, their protector, was one of the most 
powerful men in the empire.” 64 

Ironically, though the origins of Islam are rooted in the African tradition 
and the growth of the Islamic empire brought forward by the genius and might 
of African Muslims, as the twentieth century comes to a close, Islam is 
associated more with the Semitic Arabs. How did this come about? 

The Amalgamation of the Races in North Africa 

There appears to be several factors which contributed to the amalgamation 
of the races of Africans, Semitic Arabs and Europeans with the result of a 



Golden Age of the Moor 

large proportion of light-skinned people now inhabiting North Africa. We 
must not forget, though, that even today, North Africa is still heavily populated 
by dark-skinned Africans similar to the original inhabitants of the region. 

Once the original population was conquered and converted to Islam by 
armies of African Muslims from the east, the Semitic Arabs easily migrated 
westward in great numbers, unopposed by virtue of their common Islamic 
faith. Chancellor Williams says that, the poor and hungry nomads from 
the vast desert areas of the Middle East poured into the most fertile and easily 
accessible areas of this other land of deserts that is North Africa.” 65 It was the 
migration of these Semites and the erosion of a once fertile land that is now 
the Sahara Desert that forced the major portion of the African population 
towards the interior of the continent. As Williams continues, “For the weaker, 
more submissive Blacks remained in Asia-occupied [Semitic] territory to 
become slave laborers and slave soldiers, and to witness a ruthless sexual 
traffic in Black women that gave rise to a new breed of Afro- Asians .... They 
themselves bitterly objected to being identified with the race of their mothers — 
African .... This ‘New Breed,’ half- African, was to join with their Asian 
fathers and forefathers in the wars and enslaving raids against the Blacks that 
went on century after century until all North Africa was taken.” 66 

Also contributing to the ‘whitening’ of the North African population was 
the number of whites from Europe brought there as slaves. According to 
Rogers, each time Yakub Al-Mansur returned to Africa from his campaigns in 
Europe, he did so with a large number of white slaves. 67 Rogers also quotes 
from other sources, one published in 1809 and the other in 1908: “They [the 
Moors] carry the Christian captives about the Desert to the different markets 
...” and “There can be no mistake about the records of history which state that 
thousands of Christian slaves, many of them British, were sold in the great 
white market at Salli ” 68 At least one historian says that Europeans sold Eu- 
ropeans into slavery, “to the Muslim princes of North Africa and Spain.” 69 
Of course, not all conquered Europeans became slaves. There were Euro- 
peans who converted to Islam and some of them rose to high rank in Islamic 

From 939 on, Abd-er-Rahman III encouraged the establishment of the 
system of clientela . This clientela was made up of groups of slaves from 
the Black Sea region, French, Germans, Lombards, Calabrians and other 
Europeans who were brought as children and subsequently educated in 
the Caliph’s palace. They became his administrators, functionaries and 
soldiers, many of the latter attaining rank of General. They were a 
favored group, loyal to the Caliph personally and because of their power 
and wealth, they formed an elite corps within Moslem society .... During 
the tenth century, their numbers increased, there being at one time 15,000 
of them in Cordova. 70 

It was the descendants of these white Muslims, along with the mulatto 



children bom to intermarriage between the Moorish and Spanish peoples, and 
the Moors, themselves, who were finally expelled from Spain in 1610. Along 
with the other aforementioned factors, this contributed greatly to the change 
in complexion of the people of North Africa. 


Though the Moors lost military, political and economic control of Spain, 
their influence lingered long after their physical departure. Spain and Portugal, 
more than any other European populations, derived enormous benefits from 
the Moorish and African Muslim presence. They became, for a while, world 
leaders in the nautical sciences. And, it was not until 1588 (with the defeat of 
the Spanish Armada) that the other European nations were able to challenge 
them and become serious rivals in the game of discovery and colonization. 

With Spain and Portugal in the lead, Europe as a whole profited enor- 
mously from the Moorish civilization. Jackson quotes a historian as saying 
that, “None of our modern sophistry redeems the squalor of Europe from the 
fifth to the eleventh century.” 71 Stanley Lane-Poole provides us with a most 
vivid description of the contrast between Moorish Spain and the backward- 
ness of the other European countries: 

Cordova was the wonderful city of the tenth century; the streets were well 
paved and there were raised sidewalks for pedestrians. At night one could 
walk for ten miles by the light of lamps, flanked by an uninterrupted 
extent of buildings. All this was hundreds of years before there was a 
paved street in Paris or a street lamp in London. Cordova with a popula- 
tion exceeding one million was served by four thousand public markets 
and five thousand mills. Its public baths numbered into the hundreds, 
when bathing in the rest of Europe was frowned upon as a diabolical 
custom, avoided by all good Christians. Moorish monarchs dwelt in 
sumptuous palaces, while the crowned heads of England, France and 
Germany lived in big barns, lacking both windows and chimneys and 
with only a hole in the roof for the exit of smoke. Education was universal 
in Moslem Spain, being given to the most humble, while in Christian 
Europe 99 percent of the populace was illiterate, and even kings could 
neither read nor write. In the tenth and eleventh centuries, public libraries 
in Christian Europe were conspicuous by their absence, while Moslem 
Spain could boast of more than seventy, of which the one in Cordova 
housed 600,000 manuscripts. Christian Europe contained only two uni- 
versities of any consequence, while in Spain there were seventeen out- 
standing universities. The finest were those located in Almeria, Cordova, 
Granada, Jaen, Malaga, Seville, and Toledo. Scientific progress in as- 
tronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, geography, and philology in 
Moslem Spain reached a high level of development. Scholars and artists 
formed associations to promote their particular studies, and scientific 
congresses were organized to promote research and facilitate the spread 
of knowledge. 72 


Golden Age of the Moor 

The legacy of the Moors and the African Muslims to European civilization 
has been largely ignored, hidden or denied and those who would expose the 
truth of Europe’s indebtedness to the Moors have been overlooked or locked 
away from mainstream information sources. Yet, even a cursory review of 
Europe prior to the Moorish presence, provides ample evidence of their 
stumbling around in disorder and darkness. There can be no doubt that the 
explorations of new worlds and the scientific, social, political, and even 
public health and urban developments would not have been possible without 
their longstanding and fundamental contacts with Moorish civilization. 


1. J.A. Rogers, Sex and Race , Vol. 1, 1967, p. 284. 

2. D.S. Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, 1927, p. 49. 

3. Rogers, Op. Cit ., p. 96. 

4. Drusilla Dunjee Houston, Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Em- 
pire, 1985, p. 113. 

5. Cheik Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization, 1974, p. 127. 

6. Houston, Op. Cit. p. 23. 

7. Josef A.A. ben-Jochannan, Black Man of the Nile and His Family, 1981, p. 350. 

8. Asa G. Hilliard III, et al, editors, The Teachings of Ptahhotep: The Oldest 
Book in the World, 1987, p. 14. 

9. Ibid., p. 17. 

10. J.A. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. I, (first published in 1947) 
1972, pp. 185-187. 

11. Godfrey Higgins, Ana calypsis, Vol. I. (first published 1836) 1972, p. 467. 

12. Edward Wilmont Blyden, Christianity , Islam and the Negro Race, (first pub- 
lished in 1887) 1967, p. 266. 

13. W.E.B. Du Bois, The World and Africa, 1987, pp. 185-186. 

14. Ibid., p. 223. 

15. Blyden, Op. Cit., p. 264. 

16. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, pp. 139-140. 

17. Du Bois, Op. Cit., p. 223. 

18. Blyden, Op. Cit., p. 264. 

19. Burchard Brentjest, Die Mauren: Der islam in Nordafrika und Spanien (642- 
1800), 1989, figures 2 and 4. 

20. Ibid., figure 21. 

21. Wayne B. Chandler, “Hannibal: Nemesis of Rome,” Great Black Leaders: 
Ancient and Modern, editor, Ivan Van Sertima, 1988, p. 284, 

22. J.C. deGraft-Johnson, African Glory, 1986, p. 59. 

23. Ibid. 

24. Blyden, Op. Cit., p. 266. 

25. J. Desanges, “The Proto-Berbers,” General History of Africa, Vol. 2, editor, 
G. Mohktar, 1981, p. 423. 

26. deGraft-Johnson, Op. Cit., p. 55. 

27. J.A. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color-Line , 1952, p. 55. 

28. Reinhart Dozy, Spanish Islam, 1972, p. 125. 

29. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, p. 110. 

30. Thomas Arnold and Alfred Guillaume, The Legacy of Spain, p. 5. 



31. Dozy, Op. Cit., p. 139. 

32. DuBois, Op. Cit., p. 192. 

33. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color-Line, p. 55. 

34. Du Bois, Op. Cit., p. 183. 

35. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color-Line, p. 55 and Sex and Race, Vol. 1, p. 151. 

36. DuBois, Op. Cit., p. 183. 

37. deGraft-Johnson, Op. Cit., pp. 68, 70, 71, 89, 123. 

38. Arnold and Guillaume, Op. Cit., p. 5. 

39. Dozy, Op. Cit., pp. 125 and 139. 

40. deGraft-Johnson, Op. Cit., pp. 68-69. 

41. John G. Jackson, Man, God and Civilization, 1972, p. 271. 

42. Dozy, Op. Cit., p. 233. 

43. Thomas W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, 1986, p. 132. 

44. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color-Line, p. 69. 

45. Ali ibn Abd Allah, Roudh el-fCartas, French translation by F. Beaumier), 1860, 
p. 190. 

46. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, p. 223. 

47. Lee Anne Burham Seminario, The History of the Black, the Jews and the 
Moors in Spain, 1975, p. 86. 

48. Dozy, Op. Cit., pp. 694—695. 

49. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, p. 219. 

50. Ibid. 

51. Seminario, Op. Cit., pp. 86-87. 

52. deGraft-Johnson, Op. Cit., p. 88. 

53. Ali ibn Ahd Allah, Roudh el-Kartas, p. 304. 

54. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, p. 225. 

55. Ali Ibn Abd Allah, Op. Cit., p. 304. 

56. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, pp. 225-229. 

57. Rogers, Sex and Race, p. 152. 

58. Manuel Hernandez, Comentarios de las Cosas de Aragon, 1878, p. 110. 

59. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color-Line, p. 64. 

60. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, p. 256. 

61. Rogers, Sex and Race, Vol. 1, p. 97. 

62. Du Bois, The World and Africa, p. 195. 

63. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, p. 229. 

64. Rogers, Nature Knows No Color-Line, p. 58. 

65. Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization , 1987, p. 50. 

66. Ibid., pp. 50-51. 

67. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 1, pp. 225-229. 

68. Rogers, Sex and Race, pp. 1 1 1—112. 

69. Basil Davidson, The Story of Africa, 1984, pp. 105-106. 

70. Seminario, The History of the Blacks, the Jews and the Moors in Spain, p. 81. 

71. Jackson, Op. Cit., p. 261. 

72. Ibid., pp. 212-213. 


Abd Allah, Ali ibn, Roudh el-Kartas, (French translation by F. Beaumier), Paris, A 
LTmprimerie Imperiale, 1860 (first published 1326) 

Arnold, Thomas and Guillaume, Alfred, The Legacy of Spain, London, Oxford Uni- 
versity Press, 1965 



Golden Age of the Moor 



Arnold, Thomas W., The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the 
Muslim Faith , London, Darf Publishers Ltd., 1986 
ben-Jochannan, Yosef A. A., Black Man of the Nile and His Family , New York, Alkebu- 
lan Books and Education Materials Association, 1981 
Blyden, Edward W., Christianity, Islam and the Negro Race , Edinborough, Univer- 
sity of Edinborough Press, 1967 (first published 1887) 

Bovill, E. W ., The Golden Trade of the Moors, London, Oxford University Press, 1958 
Brentjes, Burchard, Die Mauren: Der Islam in Nordafrika und Spanien (642-1800), 
German Democratic Republic, Herold, 1989 
Chandler, Wayne B., “Hannibal: Nemesis of Rome,” Great Black Leaders: Ancient 
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Davidson, Basil, The Story of Africa, London, Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1984 
deGraft-Johnson, J. C., African Glory, Baltimore, Black Classic Press, 1986 (first 
published 1954) 

Desanges, J., “The Proto-Berbers,” General History of Africa, Vol. 2: Ancient Civili- 
zations of Africa, Berkeley, Calf., Heinemann-California-UNESCO, 1981 
Diop, Cheikh Anta, The African Origin of Civilization, Westport, Conn., 1974 
Dozy, Reinhart, Spanish Islam, London, Frank Cass, 1 972 
DuBois, W. E. B., The World and Africa, New York, International, 1987 
Gallego, Julian, Zurbara, 1598-1664, New York, Rizzoli, 1977 
Graves, Anna Melissa, Africa: The Wonder and the Glory, Baltimore, Black Classic 
Press, 1984 (?) (first published 1942) 

Hernandez, Manuel, Comentarios de las Cosas de Aragon (Bilioteca de Escoritores 
Aragonesesss ), Zaragoza, Spain, Imprenta del Hospicio, 1878 
Higgins, Godfrey, An acalypsis: An Inquiry into the Origin of Languages, Nations and 
Religions Vol 1, London, Longman, 1836 

Hilliard III, Asa G., et al, editors, The Teachings ofPtahhotep: The Oldest Book in the 
World, Atlanta, 1987 

Houston, Drusilla Dunjee, Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire, 
Baltimore, Black Classic Press, 1985 (first published 1926) 

Jackson, John G., Man, God and Civilization, Secaucus, N.J., Citadel Press, 1972 
Jackson, John G., Ethiopia and the Origin of Civilization, Baltimore, Black Classic 
Press, 1984 (?) (first published 1939) 

James, George, G. M., Stolen Legacy, San Francisco, Julian Richardson Associates, 
1976 (first published 1954) 

Lane-Poole, Stanley, The Story of the Moors in Spain, New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 

Margoliouth, D. S., Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, London, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 

McCabe, Joseph, The Splendour of Moorish Spain, London, Watts & Co., 1935 
Parker, George Wells, The Children of the Sun, Baltimore, Black Classic Press, 1981 
(first published 1918) 

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Rogers, J. A., Nature Knows No Color-Line, St. Petersburg, Fla., Helga M. Rogers 
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Rogers, J. A., Sex and Race Vol 1, St. Petersburg, Fla., Helga M. Rogers Publisher, 
1967 (first published 1952) 

Rogers, J. A., World’s Great Men of Color Vol. 1, New York, Collier Books, 1972, 
(first published 1946) 

Seminario, Lee Anne Durham, The History of the Blacks, the Jews and the Moors in 
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Lumpkin and Zitler 



Beatrice Lumpkin and Siham Zitzler 

Summary In the Middle Ages, Egypt and North Africa continued their tradi- 
tion of leadership in science and mathematics, a tradition then already 4,000 
years old . At Cairo, a Science Academy was established, similar to the Science 
Academy of Baghdad. From North Africa, the most advanced mathematics, sci- 
ence, medicine and literature were introduced to less developed Europe. The 
later flowering of science and culture in Europe known as "the Renaissance , " 
was a direct result of this African gift of knowledge, combined, of course, with 
internal economic and social developments in Europe itself This huge intellec- 
tual debt to Africa and Asia has never been acknowledged by Western historians. 
On the contrary , most European historians (and North Americans) have denied 
that Muslim scholars created anything new, merely crediting them with preserv- 
ing Greek (European) learning during the Middle Ages. 

The Cairo Academy 

Dar-el-Hikma, the House of Wisdom, was built in Cairo in 1005 with a grant 
by the Fatimid caliphs who ruled North Africa. A true science academy, the 
Cairo House of Wisdom provided a center where high-level mathematicians and 
scientists could work and consult. Many great contributions to world knowledge 
came from this Science Academy. It was at the well-equipped observatory of the 
Dar-el-Hikma that Ibn Yunus, “perhaps the greatest Muslim astronomer,” in the 
judgment of Sarton, 1 completed the famous Hakimi tables and where Ibn 
Haytham (Alhazen) enriched physics, mathematics, astronomy and medicine. 

Soon, the Cairo House of Wisdom became known in every field of study. 
Yushkevitch, the Soviet authority on the Muslim mathematicians, describes this 
period of rapid scientific advancement which included, but went beyond, 

In this same period, chemistry, medicine, pharmacology, zoology, botany, 
and mineralogy knew an extraordinary development. . . like Aristotle, the 
thinkers of the Islamic world were distinguished by their interest in every 
field of knowledge, their encyclopedic knowledge and by their very varied 
research. For example, the mathematicians were often involved in 
medicine. 2 

In Cairo and other North African locations, notably Tunis, a happy union of 
scientific tradition, efficient centralized government and a rich economic base 
supported peaceful, sustained research and attracted scholars from other parts of 
the Muslim world. The Fatimid caliphs were great patrons of science and learn- 
ing. As always, science advanced when government supplied the necessary 
material and moral support. 

The African scientists, through the use of Arabic as the common language of 
learning, were able to communicate with their colleagues over the vast stretches 
of Muslim influence, from Spain and Italy on the West across Africa and Asia, to 
China on the East. This was also a period of expanded trade. Muslim traders 
pushed energetically into every known comer of the world, increasing their 
wealth, and more importantly, . spreading knowledge of the new Muslim 
mathematics and science. The convenient Arabic numerals and arithmetic, which 
we use today, were adapted from India and brought into Europe by the Moors of 
North Africa. Speaking of the Moors, Smith and Karpinski write: 

“The Arabs dominated the Mediterranean sea long before Venice, and long 
before Genoa had become her powerful rival.” 3 

Advance of Technology 

The rapid progress of technology in this period also stimulated the develop- 
ment of science. For example, windmills were invented at this time and were first 
described in 947 by Al-Mas’udi, an Arab writer who lived in Egypt. 4 The Book of 
Ingenious Devices , published in the 9th century by the brothers, Banu Musa bin 
Shakir, shows the high level of Muslim technology (see Figure 1). The Banu 

F >g. 1. Drawings from Banu Musa’s The Book of Ingenious Devices. (Illustrator: Sylvia Bakos) 


Golden Age of the Moor 


Fig. 1. (cont.) 

Musa employed self-operating valves, timing mechanisms and delays, and worm 
and pinion gears, mainly operated hydraulically. Automatically operated cranks, 
shown in several of their drawings, are essentially crankshafts, in the opinion of 
Gordon Deboo of NASA. 5 

The universality of the science of the Muslim period resulted from a blend of 
theory and practice which stimulated the growth of new ideas. Insistence on 
rigorous proof in mathematics, as introduced during the Hellenistic period in 
Egypt, was maintained, alongside of respect for technology. Outstanding instru- 
ment makers were acclaimed as great men of science. Even before the Muslim 
period, Egypt was noted for her advanced technology. The first steam engine was 
built by Heron in Alexandria (ca. 100). The first water clock, a thermometer, and 
other gadgets were also developed in the Egypt of the earlier period. 6 

Fig. 2. Heron’s engine-— the first steam 
engine. Steam from the boiling water rises 
through the vertical pipes and enters the 
spherical steam chamber at A and B. A and B 
serve as pivot points about which the chamber 
revolves, driven by the reaction from the 
steam escaping through the two small nozzles. 
The design of this famous engine, which 
undoubtedly served as the inspiration for 
engines built during the Industrial Revolution 
in Europe centuries later, is still used today in 
physics lecture demonstrations and other 
applications. (Illustrator: Sylvia Bakos) 

Lumpkin and Zitler 


The famous steel for the superb swords of Damascus was made in only three 
locations; one was in Egypt. According to Al-Kindi, a medieval Muslim histo- 
rian and philosopher, swords forged in Egypt were made from “manufactured” 
iron, i.e. steel. 7 The noted traveler-historian, Ibn Battuta, described the shipment 
of iron from the mines of Lebanon, where the iron was loaded on ships at Beirut 
for sale in Egypt. 8 

Fig. 3. Script of Al-Kindi, describing the manufacture of steel in the 12th century. 

Medieval Europe Far Behind 

In this same period of Muslim pre-eminence in every field of learning, Europe 
was so far behind that George Sarton, encylopedist of sciences, in a comparison 
of European with Muslim learning, wrote: 

“Let us pass to Islam. It is almost like passing from the shade to the open sun 
and from a sleepy world into one tremendously active.” 9 Further, Sarton added, 
“The overwhelming superiority of Muslim culture continued to be felt through- 
out the tenth century.” 10 

African Mathematicians 

Perhaps it was in the mathematical sciences of mathematics, physics, and as- 
tronomy, that the influence of the Cairo Academy of Sciences was felt most 
strongly. The very word algebra is an Arabic word, adopted in Europe to de- 
scribe some of the new mathematics that the Moors had brought into Europe. The 
word for algorithm, a mathematical procedure, is a corruption of the name of 
Al-Khowarizmi, the Persian author of the algebra textbook that took Europe by 

In Egypt, the algebra of Al-Khowarizmi was developed to a higher level by 
Abu Kamil (850-930). Abu Kamil’s full name translates as the Egyptian Cal- 
culator (Abu Kamil ibn Aslam ibn Muhammad ibn Shuja al-hasib al Misri). The 
Algebra of Abu Kamil was a very popular book, the most advanced of its time. 
Whereas Al Khowarizmi dealt with one unknown, Abu Kamil used several. Es- 
pecially noteworthy was his work with complex irrational quantities, displaying, 



Golden Age of the Moor 

according to Yushkevitch, “a remarkable facility for operations on extremely 
complex irrationals of the 2nd degree.” 11 

The work of Abu Kamil was known to Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa who based 
his research on Abu Kamil’s Algebra. From the 21 problems of Abu Kamil’s On 
the Pentagon and Decagon , Leonardo copied 17, even using the same number 
facts. 12 

A characteristic of Abu Kamil’s treatment of algebra was the high theoretical 
level of his work. He was among the Muslim mathematicians who not only used 
irrational numbers but also made them the object of theoretical studies. They 
started their investigation with the theory of proportions from the Hellenistic 
period. After a critical analysis of the old theory, they developed their own the- 
ory, extending the notion of number to the set of ail real positive numbers. This 
remarkable theoretical achievement reached Europe centuries later, towards the 
end of the 16 century. 13 

Abu Kamil’s work showed progress beyond the purely geometric basis of 
mathematics. He operated on lengths and areas alike as pure numbers. A few 
examples will serve to illustrate his work: 


Fig. 4. Reproduced from Abu Kamil’s “The Pentagon ahd the Decagon”. Given the 
side of a regular pentagon, find the diameter. 

In The Pentagon and the Decagon , Example XVI, Abu Kamil refers to a cir- 
cumscribed, regular pentagon whose side is 10, as though he were solving only 
one specific problem (see Figure 4). But he immediately generalized: “It is obvi- 
ous that you mulitply one of its sides by itself; then you double it and keep it. 
Then multiply again, one of its sides by itself, then the result by itself. Then take 

Lumpkin and Zitier 


4 15 of it whose square root you find, then add the results to what you kept, then 
take the square root of the sum. What is left is the diameter of the circle.” 14 
Or, in the shorter language of modern mathematics, the diameter of the circle 
which circumscribes a regular pentagon of side x is: 

In his Algebra , Abu Kamil developed the following useful formula, illustrat- 
ing with simple examples: 

Va"± \/b~ VaH- b ± 2 VlilT 
Vl8 ± 1 V8 = V 18 + 8 ± 2V 144 


The method of false position, first used by the ancient Egyptians to solve equ- 
ations, was further applied by this Egyptian of the Middle Ages to solve non- 
linear systems of 3 equations involving solutions of some 4th degree equations. 
Abu Kamil also investigated indeterminate equations and found 2,676 solutions 
for this system: 15 

x+y+z + u + v~ 100 
2x +^+z+u_+ v~ 100 


Ibn Yunus 

Two of the most famous mathematical scientists at the Cairo House of Wisdom 
were Ibn Yunus and Ibn al-Haytham. Ibn Yunus (died Cairo 1009) was one of the 
great astronomers of all time. He prepared- the Hakimi Tables (al-Zidj al-kabir 
al-Hakimi) which contained observations of eclipses and conjunctions of the 
Planets. The tables were named in honor of the Fatimid caliph, Al-Hakim, patron 
°f the Cairo House of Wisdom. Ibn Yunus’ purpose was to test and improve the 
0 servations of earlier astronomers and their measurements of astronomical con- 
stants with the aid of the superior equipment of the Science Academy observatory 
0n the Mukkatam range. He solved difficult problems of spherical astronomy 
^ith the aid of orthogonal projections of the celestial sphere on the horizon and 
the plane of the meridian. 16 

In those days there were no logarithms to shorten the many tedious calcula- 

388 Golden Age of the Moor 

tions of astronomy. The Mathematics Teacher , in its October 1977 issue, fea- 
tured an article titled “Sixteenth Century Astronomers had Prosthaphaeresis.” 17 
The article referred to the trigonometric formula which had been discovered by 
Ibn Yunus, over 500 years earlier, in Africa! Ibn Yunus used his formula to 
change multiplications to the easier addition- substraction operations: 

cos AcosB = Vi cos( A + B ) + Vi cos( A — B) 

Yushkevitch notes that this identity was used by the noted Danish astronomer, 
Tycho Brahe, and other Europeans half a millenium later. 18 Ibn Yunus improved 
on the tables of Ptolemy, a much earlier Egyptian astronomer, coming within 10 
millionths of the true value of sin 1° 

Ibn al-Haytham 

Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham, one of the greatest physicists 
in the history of science, also worked at the House of Wisdom in Cairo (died 
Cairo c. 1039). In Europe, he is known by the name of Alhazen. He was also a 
mathematician, astronomer, physicist and physician. His book on Optics , (Kitab 
al-Manazir), which contains important discoveries on the physiology of vision 
and the theory of reflection and refraction of light, had a great influence on the 
development of optics in medieval Europe. So advanced was his work that its 
translation into Latin and publication in Europe, over 500 years after his death, 
had a great influence on Roger Bacon and Johann Kepler. 19 

Ibn al-Haytham posed and solved the problem which became known in Europe 
as Alhazen’ s problem (see Figure 5). 

Given a fixed position of an observer’s eye and a light source, determine the 
point on a cylindrical mirror where a light ray would be reflected from the source 
into the eye. This problem reduces mathematically to: In a plane, given a circle 
and two points, A and B, outside the circle, find a point C on the circumference 
such that the straight lines joining point C to the two given points A and B make 
equal angles with the radius to C. 

This problem leads to a 4th degree equation, solved by Ibn al-Haytham using a 
circle and hyperbola. In the 17th century, Christian Huygens and Isaac Barrow 
and other scientists became interested in Alhazen’ s problem, 20 

One of the precursors of calculus, Ibn al-Haytham was the first to obtain a 
formula for the 4th powers of the first n natural numbers. He used the formula to 
evaluate the volume of solids of revolution generated by revolving a parabola 
around its axis or around a line parallel to the axis. This is equivalent to the 

Lumpkin and Zitler 389 

Fig. 5. The famous problem of Alhazen (Ibn al-Haytham) . Given a light source at A and 
observer at B, find point C on a cylindrical mirror such that the light ray will be 
reflected to the observer at B. 

evaluation of the definite integral f t 4 dt . This result was not known in 
the earlier Greek period and was not rediscovered in Europe until the 17th cen- 
tury, 600 years after Ibn al-Haytham. Very few calculus students in the United 
States or Europe are aware that one of the founders of this very important branch 
of mathematics was a Muslim mathematician at the House of Wisdom in Cairo 
almost 1000 years ago. 

Ibn al-Haytham also helped lay the groundwork for the modern non- Euclidean 
geometries. Like many mathematicians both before and after him, he tried to 
prove the independence of Euclid’s fifth postulate. He constructed a quadrilateral 
with three known right angles and investigated the fourth angle, a method 
utilized by J.H. Lambert in the 18th century, 700 years later. Ibn al-Haytham 
states, as obvious, a proposition about perpendicular and oblique lines. In 1882, 
850 years later, this proposition was stated as an important axiom by Moritz 
Pasch, an “order” axiom, in the terminology of Hilbert. 22 

The outstanding African scholars described above are but a few of many of 
that fruitful period of history. The Muslim scholars were of different religions, 
Christians and Jews as well as Muslims. Their unity was one of shared tradition 
and language, not religion. In this sense they continued the unbroken tradition of 
4,000 years of mathematical and scientific development in Egypt. The language 
changed but the work continued. 23 Regardless of religion, the scholars of that 
time wrote in Arabic and were steeped in the culture of the Muslim world. 

Among African- Jewish scholars of that time, the spirit of scientific inquiry 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Lumpkin and Zitler 


Fig. 6. Volume of a Solid of Revolution 
generated by revolving a parabola around its 
axis. Ibn-al-Haytham was first to calculate 
this volume, now a standard problem in 
integral calculus. 

Inverted Image inside camera 

Fig. 7. Camera Obscura principle, illustrated here, was used by Ibn al-Haytham to 
view the image of the sun during an eclipse. He made extensive use of the experimental 
method of science. (Illustrator: Sylvia Bakos) 

flourished and they participated in the growth of Muslim science. Mashallah, an 
Egyptian Jewish astronomer who died c. 815, worked in that tradition. He, and a 
Persian colleague, made the measurements for the plan of the new city of 
Baghdad. 24 A co-religionist of Mashallah in North Africa, Judah ibn Qarish, 
wrote a dictionary of Semitic languages. Isaac Judaeus (Abu Ya’quab Ishaq ibn 
Sulaiman el-Isra’ili) an Egyptian Jew who also wrote in Arabic, was the physi- 
cian to the caliph in Tunis. Among his medical writings are descriptions of fev- 
ers, lists of medicinal drugs and treatises on nutrition, urine and ethics. 25 To 
make the Muslim learning more accessible to those who knew only Hebrew, two 
African Jews from Fez Morocco, David ben Abraham (Abu Sulaiman Da’ud al- 
Fasi) and Judah ben David (Abu Zakariya Yahya ibn Da’ud) compiled Arabic - 
Hebrew dictionaries. 

Muslim Medicine 

It may have been in medicine that Muslim learning made its greatest initial im- 
pact on other parts of the world. An Egyptian physician, who greatly influenced 
European medicine, was the surgeon, Abu-l-Qasim. He wrote a medical encyc- 
lopedia of 30 sections, stressing the importance of cauterization. The encyc- 
lopedia included views of surgical instruments, far more advanced than any then 
in Europe. 26 Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Yahya al-Baladi, another Egyptian 
doctor, wrote on hygiene for pregnant women and babies. In Tunis, Abu- Ja’far 
Ahmad ibn Ibrahum ibn ali Khalid ibn al-Jazzar (died 1009) wrote a remarkable 
description of smallpox, measles, the common cold and the causes of plague in 
Egypt. Although the medical works of Sa’id ibn al-Batriq (died 939 in Alexan- 
dria) have been lost over the years, a copy of his authoritative catalog of jewels, 
“Jewels Arranged in Order,” has survived. 

Muslim Spain — Africa in Europe 

The great works of scientists and mathematicians of North Africa in the Mid- 
dle Ages lay the basis for the later flowering of mathematics and science in 
Europe. But in the case of Iberia the infusion of African learning was immediate 
following the Moorish conquest in the 8th century. 27 In Cordoba, the caliph 
Al-Hakam II appropriated money to collect a library of 400,000 volumes of the 
finest works in the Islamic world. The catalog of these books alone took up 44 
volumes! Although Cordoba fell in 1236 to the Christians, the science and 
philosophy, the mathematics and the technology, the music and literature, all of 
these remained as permanent African contributions to Iberia and the rest of 
Europe . 

One of the greatest Iberian Muslim scholars was ibn Rusd (1126-90) known in 
Europe as Averroes. Even in so modern a subject as mathematical logic, which 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Lumpkin and Zitler 



had its main development in the 19th and 20th centuries, the foundation was laid 
by the Muslim mathematicians and philosophers. Albert the Great of Swabia was 
strongly influenced by ibn Rusd and based his theory of abstractions on the work 
of ibn Sina (Avicenna). 28 Styazhkin, a historian of logic, concludes: “While the 
Scholastics were able to draw the idea of formal implication from Aristotle, for 
the elements of the theory of material implication they turned to the works of the 
Arabian logicians Avicenna, al-Farabi, al-Ghazzali (Algazel) and Averroes.” 29 

One of the first of the new crop of European mathematicians who tried to end 
European isolation from the mainstream of mathematics was Fibonacci, known 
also as Leonardo of Pisa. Carruccio quotes from Leonardo’ s Liber Abbaci, writ- 
ten in 1202 after his extensive travels in Algeria and the Mid East. “All that was 
studied in Egypt, in Syria, in Greece, in Sicily and in Provence . . . with various 
methods belonging to those places, where I wandered as a merchant, I investi- 
gated very carefully and . . . having very accurately studied the way of the Hindi 
(algebra), instructed by my own enquiries, and adding what I was able to take 
from Euclid, I wanted to write a work of fifteen chapters, with nothing capital 
left without a demonstration; and this I did, so that the science might be easily 
understood, and the Latin people should no longer be deprived of it.” 30 

Indeed, all the European locations mentioned by Fibonacci, had been under 
Muslim influence, and were major conduits of Muslim learning into Europe. In 
827 African Muslims occupied Palermo, then Messina in 842 and Siracuse in 
878, where they ruled until 1060. Muslim influence continued in Sicily, after the 
political domination of the Moors ended, especially under the rule of Federigo II, 
a patron of learning. 

Constantine the African 

Mieli tells the story of Constantine, an African merchant who made a trading 
trip to Salerno, in Southern Italy. Constantine must have seen a great opportunity 
in Salerno because on his return to Africa he studied medicine for several years. 
Then Constantine went back to Salerno with a collection of Arabic medical 
books. Legend has it that he lost some books in a storm at sea but enough were 
saved to make the medical school of Salerno famous throughout Europe. Con- 
stantine translated the Arabic books, adding his own comments. This store of 
African medical knowledge revolutionized European medicine, “giving a for- 
ward thrust to all the other medical schools of Europe.” 31 

The Crusades were another means by which Europeans became aware of Mus- 
lim learning. Despite the horrible massacres they committed against the Mus- 
lims, the more intelligent Crusaders, according to Mieli, recognized that they 
were in contact with a civilization far superior to their own and tried to become 
acquainted with Arab literature.” 32 

In these few pages, only a brief account of the achievements of African 
mathematicians and scientists of the Middle Ages is possible. But, even in out- 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Lumpkin and Zitler 

line form, we can see the richness of the body of knowledge developed in Africa 
and Asia, knowledge essential for the later European Renaissance. Why then do 
writers like Moms Kline 33 and most Western historians of mathematics repeat, 
ad nauseam, that true mathematics developed only in Europe? Why do they write 
that the Muslims merely preserved Greek learning and added nothing new? Or if 
some historians could not deny the Muslim achievements, why do they claim that 
the Moorish scholars were really Latin and not African? 

For the political reasons behind the revision of history to exclude the true role 
of African scholars, I refer the reader to my article on “The History of 
Mathematics in the Age of Imperialism.” 34 Those guilty of twisting the history 
of mathematics to fit a pre-conceived colonial mold are sometimes unaware of 
the startling contradictions that appear in their work. For example, J.F. Scott, on 
page 61 of his History of Mathematics acknowledges that the Arabs, “ . . . did 
more than preserve; they made some significant contributions of their own.” But 
two pages later, Scott forgets his own honest estimate and slips into the more 
standard prejudiced judgment: 

“The debt which the west owes to the Arabs for their part in preserving and 
transmitting Greek science is very great. It must not be forgotten, however, that 
preservation is one thing; creation is something different. Mathematics for its de- 
velopment requires the creative faculty, and there is little evidence of this in the 
many centuries which separate the decline of Alexandrian science and its revival 
in the West.” 35 

A more objective estimate, by Carl Boyer, concludes: “It is sometimes held 
that the Arabs had done little more than to put Greek science into cold storage 
until Europe was ready to accept it. But the account in this chapter has shown that 
at least in the case of mathematics the tradition handed over to the Latin world in 
the 12th and 13th centuries was richer than that with which the unlettered Arabic 
conquerors had come into contact in the 7th century.” 36 

A similar opinion is expressed by A.P. Yushkevitch, the Soviet author of one 
of the very few books written about Muslim mathematicians in this century. 

“The Islamic mathematicians exercised a prolific influence on the develop- 
ment of science in Europe, enriched as much by their own discoveries as those 
they had inherited from the Greeks, the Indians, the Syrians, the Babylonians, 
etc.” 37 

It is time that we remembered the debt owed by our modern science and tech- 
nology to the great mathematicians and scientists of the Cairo House of Wisdom, 
Dar-el-Hikma, of almost a thousand years ago. 


1. George Sarton, Introduction to the History of Science, V. 1, Carnegie Institution, Baltimore, 
1927, p 716 

2. Adolf P. Youschkevitch (Yushkevitch), Les Mathematiques Arabes, (8th-15th centuries) 

translated from Russian to French, Vrin, Paris, 1976, p 5. (translations quoted from French to En- 
glish are mine. B. Lumpkin) 

3. David Eugene Smith and Louis Charles Karpinski, The Hindu Arab Numerals, Ginn, Boston, 
1911, p 106 

4. Sarton, op. cit., p 638 

5. Gordon Deboo, “The Book of Ingenious Devices,” Arab Perspectives, Sept. 1981, p 53 

6. Carl Boyer, A History of Mathematics , Wiley, N.Y., 1968, p 193 

7. A.Y. Al-Hassan, “Iron and Steel Technology in Medieval Arabic Sources,” Journal for the 
History of Arab Science , Aleppo, Syria, 1978, p 35 

8. ibid, p 42 

9. Sarton, op. cit., p 695 

10. ibid, p 619 

11. Yushkevitch, op. cit., pp 52-61, 81 

12. Mohammad Yadegari and Martin Levey, Abu Kamil’s “On the Pentagon and Decagon ” 
History of Science Society of Japan, Supplement 2, Tokyo, 1971, p 1 

13. Yushkevitch, op. cit., p 89 

14. Yadegari, op. cit., p 28 

15. Yushkevitch, op. cit., pp 56, 66 

16. Encyclopedia of Islam, V. 2, 1926, p 499 

17. R.C. Pierce, Jr., “Sixteenth Century Astronomers Had Prosthaphaeresis” The Mathematics 
Teacher, October 1977, p 613-4 

18. Yushkevitch, op. cit., p 136 

19. Sarton, op. cit., p 721 

20. Yushkevitch, op. cit., p 91-2 

21. ibid, p 129-30 

22. ibid, p 116 

23. Beatrice Lumpkin, “Africa in the Mainstream of Mathematics,” Journal of African Civiliza- 
tions, V. 2, No. 1 & 2 combined, p 73 

24. Sarton, op. cit., p 521 

25. ibid, p 634 

26. ibid, p 616 

27. Yushkevitch, op. cit., p 12 

28. N.I. Styazhkin, History of Mathematical Logic from Leibniz to Peano. M.I.T. Cambridge, 
1969, (orig. Nauka, Moscow, 1964) p 8 

29. ibid, p 21 

30. Ettore Carruccio, Mathematics and Logic in History and Contemporary Thought, tr. by Isabel 
Quigley, Aldine, Chicago, 1964, p 159 

31. Aldo Mieli, La Science Arabe, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1938, p 219-20 

32. ibid, p 223 

33. Morris Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture , Oxford Press, N.Y., 1953, p 23 

34. Beatrice Lumpkin, “The History of Mathematics in the Age of Imperialism,” Science and 
Society, summer 1978, pp 178-84 

35. J.F. Scott, History of Mathematics , Taylor and Francis, London, 1960, p 61, 63 

36. Boyer, op. cit., p 269 

37. Yushkevitch, op. cit., p 164 

Van Sertima 



Ivan Van Sertima 

1. The Judgement 

Many lengthy and technical arguments have been placed before this Court 
by both sides — Learned Counsels for the Prosecution and the Defense and 
the illustrious company of expert witnesses they have summoned — in the 
case of the State of New Truth vs the Grand Myth-Makers of History. I would 
like those of you who have been spirited here against your will from your 
long deep sleep in the Underworld to appreciate our reasons for the retrial of 
this case towards the end of the twentieth century. As Presiding Judge of 
this Court, I seek the forgiveness of my learned friend, Chiekh Anta Diop of 
Senegal, who was posthumously persuaded to serve as Counsel for the 
Prosecution. I seek the apology also of expert witnesses like Otto 
Neugeubauer for the Defense and V.V. Struve for the Prosecution for an- 
swering subpoenas served against their reluctant shades so that they could 
do battle as representatives of the opposing sides in this critical trial before 
the Tribunal of History. Also, in spite of the Court’s findings, which I shall 
soon proceed to summarize, I cannot but express sympathy for having to 
recall the distantly departed scientists, Archimedes and Pythagoras, the main 
defendants in this case against the Greek plagiarists, to face the judgement 
of this Court. 

Why are you here before the Bench, gentlemen? Why is it so important to 
us, after the lapse of so many centuries, to reopen the question of who did what 
and when? The matter at issue before this Court is not the matter of borrow- 
ing. It is not as simple as that. All civilizations borrow from those that 
precede them. One would be a fool indeed to start all over again from 
scratch instead of refining that which has been passed on to us by our 
predecessors. I think it was Leonardo da Vinci who said: “I appear tall 
because I am standing on the shoulders of giants.” That your countrymen sat 
at the foot of African-Egyptian priests and teachers in their temples, some of 
them, like you Pythagoras, as many as 22 years, is something that has been 
minimized or denied but, I assure you, it is well-documented. Even the 
greatest of European scientists, Sir Isaac Newton, speaks loudly and clearly 
of your enormous debt, Pythagoras, which others have sought to deny. That 
you should borrow from the Egyptians is quite natural and inevitable. The 

matter before this Court, as I say, is far more serious. It involves the deliber- 
ate falsification of evidence by you and your colleagues, particularly your 
later promoters, the deliberate refusal to give due credit to a civilization 
which, in your time, though not homogeneous, was predominantly African, 
the creation and consolidation of the impression that what you claimed to 
have “discovered” had no precedence. Claims such as yours, sir, in many 
instances, create no great harm and as such they can be forgiven. The 
egoism and vanity of man, after all, is well-known and to be expected. But 
what you and the later myth-makers, building upon your vanities, have 
done, is to perpetuate a dangerous and highly destructive prejudice against 
the darker races of man. The odious notion, so persistently cultivated that it 
has become an automatic reflex, that the Greeks, being Aryan, were the 
originators of a theoretical science while the Egyptian, too inseparably linked 
to African genes to rise above intellectual mediocrity, were just crude em- 
piricists, arriving at simple recipes by dint of mundane observations, incapable 
of lofty flights into the stratosphere of abstraction. This has even led modern 
African leaders of thought, such as ex-President of Senegal, Leopold Sedar- 
Senghor, to declare: “Reason is Greek, Emotion is Negro.” 

What this has done, the Tribunal concludes, to countless generations of 
African peoples, what it is still doing today to the psyche of millions, rel- 
egated for half a millenia to an underclass, is frightening. It is, in our 
judicial opinion, criminal This, then, is the motivation of this Court for 
attempting at this late stage a thorough reexamination of the facts of the 
case. This is what this Court seeks to rectify in our Judgement and Sentence. 

But why have we singled you out, Archimedes and Pythagoras? Why 
have we separated your case from that of the other plagiarists — those count- 
less others who, Clement of Alexandria at Stromateis tells us, would fill a 
volume of a thousand pages? 

It is because the emphasis in this case — at least in its opening stages — 
suggested such a procedure. Because the Court wanted initially to deal, not 
with the mere matter of precedence and borrowing, which we shall present 
in separate and supplementary briefs, but that which we consider the source 
of the most deceptive and enduring racial stereotype, the posing of a com- 
plex duality of empirical-theoretical Greek science against a lower order of 
Egyptian empiricism. 

Expert witness, Paul ver Eecke, has given testimony to this Court of a 
previous notion or notions behind many of your propositions, Archimedes. 
Notions obtained, he suggests, in ways you have said nothing about. You 
had dedicated your treatise on The Method to your friend, the geometrician, 
Erasthothenes. In this work you pointedly say that the key to your discover- 
ies lie in your mechanical method. You boasted of actually weighing geo- 
metrical figures to confirm theoretical positions. Brilliant, Mr Archimedes. 
But it does not answer our most searching questions. For why, this Court 
has sought to know, does your famous method explain only a few of your 



Golden Age of the Moor 

Van Sertima 

numerous propositions? Behind the rest, we have been persuaded to believe, 
by ver Eecke and other expert witnesses, lies a hidden method or methods, 
long-tested approaches that generated many of your propositions. Ver Eecke 
tells us that you had only raised a corner of the veil. Why the secrecy, sir, in 
a man so eager to stamp his patent on such a vast body of original thought, 
why be vague about the keystone method behind such an impressive field of 
propositions? Were you protecting your formula for originality, sir? For it is 
not just ver Eecke but another expert witness for the prosecution, V.V. 
Struve, who has tried the utmost to find the approach of the Egyptian math- 
ematicians, that has put your claims into question. Dr Struve has shown this 
Court, in problem after problem (from what in our times we have come to 
know as the Moscow Mathematical Papyrus) that the Egyptians, whom you 
visited and studied, first-hand and second-hand, used an empirical-theoreti- 
cal method comparable at every point , to that of yours. In some respects, 
perhaps, and Counsel for the Prosecution is more cautious, this may be an 
over-statement by Struve, but nothing that you have said in your work nor 
before this Court nor anything said by your defenders (and no one, by the 
way, has sought to deny your ingenuity, Mr. Archimedes, nor the refinements 
you have brought to the solution of certain problems), but nothing, I repeat, 
nothing absolves you of intellectual dishonesty, of the charge of appropriat- 
ing without accreditation, brazenly and repeatedly, some of your major 
propositions arrived at and written down centuries before by African thinkers 
in the temples. 

The Prosecution has presented a considerable body of well-argued and 
documented evidence to establish this. The Court shall confine itself in the 
Judgement to just three of these to demonstrate the main lines of evidence 
against you. 

Expert witness V.V. Struve demonstrated to us that the Egyptian math- 
ematicians established the rigorous formula for the area of the sphere. Let 
me quote Learned Counsel for the Prosecution, directly and in specific 
detail, on this matter, for, although it is an abstruse technical issue to some 
of us, the main case against you, Archimedes, hangs on it: “It is the identical 
formula” says the Prosecution “to that which gives the area of the cylinder 
tangent to the sphere and of a height equal to the diameter of the latter.” We 
present now before the Court — EXHIBIT A — which shows the two figures 
in question, that is, the cylinder inscribed in the sphere. Note, sir, you chose 
this as your epitaph. You proclaimed that this was your best discovery. 

Dr Struve and Dr Diop have made it patently clear to us all that the 
Egyptian mathematicians, and again I quote directly from the indictment, 
“did not fail to associate these two figures in order to arrive at an empirical- 
theoretical general method for the study of curved areas and volumes.” How 
could you claim, after your travels in Egypt and the translations that were 
available to you even before you went there (your close friend, Erastothenes, 

Cylinder tangential to a sphere. It is the only case where 
the equality between the height of a cylinder and the diameter of the 
circle at the base, which is also that of the inscribed sphere, is of 
particular interest. This figure is the one that Archimedes chose as 
an epitaph, because, as he said, it represented his most beautiful 

Exhibit A 


Golden Age of the Moor 

a Libyan of Cyrene, was actually Head of the Library of Alexandria) that 
you did not know that this was an established theorem two thousand years 
before you were born?. And this is your epitaph, sir, your most “beautiful” 

This Court has been asked to reexamine the first three propositions of 
your book On the Equilibrium of Planes or of Their Center of Gravity. You 
are the acclaimed discoverer of the lever or, at least, of the theory of lever- 
age. But look at EXHIBIT B — the Egyptian scale — the first rigorous scien- 
tific application of the theory of leverage. That was way back in 1,500 B.C. 
And EXHIBIT C — the shadoof— the theory of leverage already expressed 
in a machine a thousand years before you were born. Of course we give you 
credit for that unforgettable phrase, about the lever enabling you “to lift up 
the Earth, if you had a point of support.” What an ingenious formulation! 

According to the Prosecution, you did the same thing with the “continuous 
screw.” Even to this day, it is called the Archimedean screw. Strabo’s ac- 
count of the matter, as well as that of Diodorus of Sicily, suggests that this 
was another false claim of yours. How is it that the Egyptian screw was 
already in use to extract percolated water and you invented it all over again 
from scratch at the very same time you first visited Egypt? 

We do understand that men fall victim to the habits of their cultures. 
Egyptian scientific legacies and developments were more or less communal 
in their authorship and bodies of thinking and centers of knowledge seldom, 
if ever, carried individual names. Your people, it seems, starting putting 
their names on whole complexes of things they appropriated. We cannot 
entirely condemn you. It had become, it is clear, a cultural habit. It was in 
keeping with, to use the words of Learned Counsel for the Prosecution, “a 
tradition of Greek plagiarism.” 

But enough. Centuries have passed. We are at another crossroad in time. 
There is need now to set the record straight if for no other reason but to put 
a decent end to the prejudices, rigid and implacable, that these falsifications 
have engendered. 

We need to return to mutual respect. Respect such as Alexander the Great 
had for the Egyptians, even though he defeated their forces and conquered 
their country. Such respect, indeed, that it was his fondest wish that he be 
buried in the hallowed land that he had vanquished. We must abandon our 
imperial conceits and our individual vanities, sir. All peoples seek just credit 
for their deserts. Yours are the lesser, no doubt, for these questionable 
borrowings. But we do not agree, we cannot agree, with the extreme statement 
made by witness for the Prosecution, GGM James, that your people “showed 
no creative powers and were unable to improve on the knowledge they 
received.” Yet we understand his anger and his hatred. It is the natural 
consequence of your lies, sir. 

That is why we sit in judgement upon you in these final days of this 

Van Sertima 








Golden Age of the Moor 


millenium. We sentence your reputation to be suspended, Archimedes, the 
history concerning your most vaunted achievements to be scrupulously re- 
examined and revised. We enjoin you, with all the authority vested within 
us, to bring the force of your spirit to weigh upon the conscience of your 
contemporary promoters, so that they may own up to the debt you owe to 
the African people. Thus may you redeem, without eternal blemish, that 
which you have truly given to the world. 

As for you, Pythagoras, the judges are divided as to whether you deserve 
the same type of condemnation. The theorem that carries your name, as 
expert witnesses P.H. Michel and Beatrice Lumpkin have shown, is certainly 
not original. Learned Counsel for the Prosecution has gone into this matter 
in very minute detail. Because this case touches on things that concern us 
all, not just the mathematicians, and because the gallery is filled with more 
laymen than specialists, I had wanted to avoid, as much as possible, citing 
formulas in a manner as may be understood only by the privileged few. But 
in this particular instance the Court deems it necessary to quote Dr Diop 
chapter and verse, for, like the vaunted epitaph of Archimedes, this was to 
become the foundation of your reputation, sir. 

“The Egyptians knew,” (and I am quoting the words of the Prosecutor) 
“how to rigorously extract the square root, even of the most complicated 
whole or fractional numbers. The term that served to designate the square 
root in the Pharaonic language is significant in that respect: the right angle 
of a square, knbt ; “to make the angle” = to extract the square root. The 
Egyptians defined a fundamental unit of length called the “double remen,” 
which is equal to the diagonal of a square of little side a = one royal cubit; 
in other words, if d is diagonal, then one necessarily has, by definition of 
this length itself, the “double remen.” 

d = aV2 = {yfl x 20.6) = 29.1325 inches 

The royal cubit = 20.6 inches 

The remen —d/2 = V2/2a = 14.6 inches 

“The Egyptians, who thus determined the diagonal of the square from the 
value of the side and who mastered the calculation of the extraction of the 
square root, knew, as the definition above proves: 

“The irrational number par excellence, which is 2, as they also knew the 
transcendent number (also irrational). 

“The theorem of the square of the diagonal (falsely attributed to Pythagoras) 
at least in the case of the isosceles right-angled triangle.” 

The Court has also determined that there are other innovations ascribed to 
you or to your followers, the Pythagoreans, which should really be credited 
to your teachers. Thales of Miletos had been a student in the Egyptian 
Houses of Life before you. He also enunciated a theorem that is prefigured 
by Problem 53 of the Rhind Papyrus (as we have come to call a certain 

Van Sertima 


Egyptian Measurements. Relationships between cubit, double remen, and remen 
give an example of so-called Pythagorean theorem that l 2 + l 2 = (V2 ) 2 . (From 
Lumpkin, Senefer and Hatshepsut , p. 55) 


Exhibit D 


Golden Age of the Moor 

Van Sertima 


fragment that survived the dynastic Egyptians). It was written by them 
thirteen hundred years before his birth. He was the one, we understand, who 
began the great pilgrimage of aspiring Greek scientists to Egypt. You were 
his star-pupil, Pythagoras. You went on from that early mentoring to spend 
half of your adult intellectual life in Africa. The problem that faces this 
Court in passing judgement upon you is that we are not unanimously certain 
that you enunciated the so-called Pythagorean theorem or introduced such 
theories as “The Harmony of the Spheres” with naked intent to defraud, that 
is, to appear the original, sole or primary inventor thereof. Yet Herodotus 
calls you a simple plagiarist of the Egyptians. Even your biographer, 
Jamblichus, has told us that all the theorems of lines, which we now call 
geometry, came out of Egypt. This Court, however, rules that it is more the 
shrill and arrogant claims of your later supporters than any proven individual 
claim or boast of yours that has given your plagiarism such prominence. 
The Court finds it, therefore, only necessary in your case to expose the facts, 
so that the origin of the theorem that bears your name can now be given its 
rightful attribution. We can pass no clear judgement upon you, for the 
members of the Tribunal are divided on the matter of your personal culpa- 

It is impossible to exhaust in this Judgement the enormous debt you and 
your countrymen owe to the Egyptian mathematicians. It is equally impos- 
sible for me to repeat the lengthy proofs and arguments that have been 
advanced to establish the precedence of so many formulae. But I cannot 
conclude this Judgement without mentioning a few of these — the formulae 
for the area of a sphere and the length of the circumference, for the volume 
of a cylinder, for the area of a circle, for the measurement of the pyramid 
and the cone (once again, falsely attributed to a Greek -Eudoxus of Cnidus) 
the volume of a pyramid and a truncated pyramid, the exact value of pi 
(3.16) never so accurately calculated until the most recent of times, the first 
use of trigonometric lines, and on and on and on. 

Deeply though we deplore the shadow that the Greek conquest cast over 
the scientific reputation of the Egyptian, the enormous legacy not only in 
mathematics but in physics, astronomy, medicine, metallurgy, and mechanics, 
that your people may have claimed and appropriated, it must be pointed out, 
in all fairness, that at least you showed respect, sometimes bordering on 
awe, for your teachers. You would never have encouraged, you would never 
have dreamt to decree, the burning of the Library of Alexandria, as that 
religious bigot, Theodosius, seems to have done, And had you not sat, for 
the best part of your intellectual lives, in the temples of the Egyptians, had 
you not taken and transmitted, and, in some cases, refined what they had to 
teach you, the later Arab conquerors of Egypt, who had never seen a pyra- 
mid, an obelisk, or a sphinx, who could not read hieroglyphic inscriptions, 
would have had a slim scientific tradition to build upon. So few of them, 

alas, let it be recorded by this Court, since we must apportion both credit 
and blame for the events of history, so few of them gave credit to the native 
genius of the people they conquered, and have, through later accretions of 
prejudice, falsely assumed and falsely declared that your translations and 
transmissions were wholly works of your own. Granted that their memory 
and imagination, their vision of the past, was later colonized by European 
rulers but they have contributed, in no mean measure, to the Grand Myth 
that your tradition of plagiarism created. 

2. Supplements to the Indictment 

Apart from the Judgement we have handed down against the chief plagia- 
rists, Archimedes and Pythagoras, the Tribunal has prepared, on the basis of 
evidence given by other experts, a number of supplementary briefs on the 
Egyptian contributions to science in the age when it was dominated and 
inspired by the African genius. This is indeed a vast and complex field and 
no one scholar can ever encompass it. That is why we have summoned a 
team of experts. 

Few men live these days in a Renaissance world. One is considered a 
romantic dabbler if one attempts, like an ancient Imhotep or a medieval Da 
Vinci, ta inhabit more than one room in the house of knowledge. Knowledge, 
indeed, has exploded so rapidly that specialists feel compelled to knit the 
spokes of their brains to the hub of a single discipline. Laymen, on the other 
hand, are too far removed from what appears to them to be “mystery systems” 
to grasp the grand poetry of mathematics, the interior cosmic order and 
beauty behind so many of these cryptic but critical revelations. That is why 
this Court feels it must add a corollary to the Judgement. We feel that the 
time has come for all people to rethink and re-sense the multi-racial genesis 
and legacy of man. We see it as our duty, in the light of the evidence these 
experts have brought before us, to demonstrate a balance, in the contribution 
to civilization, between the races. It is too late, alas, to pass sentence of 
death on the Myth-Makers but we must unseal and reveal the full indictment 
against them, since we consider the Grand Myth of European scientific 
hegemony and African intellectual inferiority to be the most cruel, the most 
pervasive, the most divisive myth and fantasy of man. 

This Court shall now adjourn. When we resume we shall present a formi- 
dable body of evidence in several fields — physics, medicine, mechanics, 
metallurgy, agriculture, architecture and astronomy. Until then, thank you, 
ladies and gentlemen, thank you. 


Editor's Note : This essay will be continued in the second edition of this work. 


Golden Age of the Moor 


1. Chiekh Anta Diop, Civilization or Barbarism , (trans. from the French by Yaa- 
Lengi Meema Ngemi) Lawrence Hill Books, 1991. This is absolutely necessary 
reading for all students of African Civilizations, especially the chapter “Africa’s 
Contribution to the Sciences.” See also Great African Thinkers — Cheikh Anta Diop, 
Journal of African Civilizations, Vol 8, No. 1, 1986 (edited by Ivan Van Sertima 
and Larry Williams) This book should return to print in the summer of 1992. 

2. Beatrice Lumpkin, “Africa in the Mainstream of Mathematics History” in Blacks in 
Science , Vol. 5, 1984, Journal of African Civilizations (edited by Ivan Van Sertima) 

3. Richard J. Gillings, Mathematics in the Time of the Pharaohs (Londen: MIT Press, 

4. T. Eric Peet, The Rhind Mathematical Papyrus , The University Press of Liverpool, 

IN SPAIN, 711-1492* 

James J. Ravell 


A. General Bibliographies, Encyclopaedias, and Periodicals 

01. Abdulrazak, Fazwi, compiler. Arabic Historical Writing 1974: an An- 
notated Bibliography of Books in History from all Parts of the Arab 
World, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Library, 1976. xi, 258 
pp. “Supplement, 1973,” pp. 241-257; Indexes. 

Annotations are in English of works written in Arabic. Only a few 
entries concern Moorish Spain directly. 

02. Abdulrazak, Fazwi, compiler. Arabic Historical Writing, 1975 and 1976: 
an Annotated Bibliography of Books in History from all Parts of the 
Arab World , London, Mansell, 1979. xviii, 210 pp., 23 cm. Includes 

03. Al-Andalus (Madrid), 1933-1978. Ceased publication. Al-Andalus was 
the Arabic name for Moorish Spain that at one stage included parts of 
present-day Portugal. Articles are mostly in Spanish, on all aspects of 
Spain under the Moors. Bibliographies were regularly published. 

04. al-Qantara (Madrid), Vol. 1 (1980 - ); semiannual; irregular; ill.; 23 

Continues : Al-Andalus. 

Articles mostly in Spanish, but occasionally also in English and 

05. Anderson, Margaret, compiler, Arabic Materials in English Translation, 
a biblioqraphy of works from the pre-Islamic Period to 1977 (A Refer- 
ence Publication in Middle Eastern Studies), Boston, Mass., G.K. Hall 
& Co., 1980. xiii, 249 pp., Index. 

Contains various items on Moorish Spain. 

06. The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, compiled by Cyril Glasse, Lon- 
don, Stacey International, 1989. 472 pp.; col. ill., maps; Chronology; 
Bibl.: pp. 468-472. 

Contains brief entries for Al-Andalus, Almoravids, Almohads, and 
the main M oorish scholars. See also nos. 08-10 below. 

The main focus of this Bibliography is on works (primarily books) in the English 
language. For Arabic and Spanish works, see especially Chejne, Anwar G., Muslim 
Spain (1974), no. 54 below. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

07. Ede, David and Librande, Leonard et al. , compilers. Guide to Islam , 
Boston, Mass, G.K. Hall & Co., 1983. 

Fully annotated bibliography on all aspects of Islam. Numerous 
entries deal with Moorish Spain. 

08. The Encyclopaedia of Islam . 4 vols & supplement. London, Luzac; 
Leiden, Brill (1913-38); new ed.: (1960-1978), 4 vols; 1979-82, Vol 5 
(KHE-LA), Leiden, Brill, 1981. Bibliographies and maps. Vol. 6. 
Facsicles 105-106 Man-Mar’ ashis, Leiden, Brill, 1988, 512 pp. 

Vol. 1 A-B of new ed. (1960) contains an overview of the history 
and culture of ALAndalus. See also items on various persons and 

09. The Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2nd ed., prepared by a number of leading 
Orientalists. Edited by J.H. Kramers, H.A.R. Gibb and E. Levi- 
Proven^al, under the patronage of the International Union of Academies, 
Leiden, Brill, (1954 - ). 

10. The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New ed.: Supplement, prepared by a 
number of leading orientalists; edited by C.E. Bosworth [et al], assisted 
by F. Th. Dijkema, M. Lefort and S. Nurit, under the patronage of the 
International Union of Academies, Leiden, Brill, (1980 - ). 

11. Grimwood-Jones, Diana, Hopwood, Derek et al. Arab Islamic Bibliog- 
raphy: the Middle East Library Committee Guide , based on Guiseppi 
Gabrieli’s Manuale di bibliografia musulmana , Hassocks, U.K., Har- 
vester Press/Atlantic Highlands, N.J., Humanities Press, 1977. xvii, 
292 pp., Index. 

12. Grose, David D., general editor. A Select Bibliography of History, 
compiled by the The Henry Adams History Club, Harvard University, 
Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1970. 4th ed. xi, 428 pp. 
No annotation. 

Contains sections on Medieval Islam, 600-1500, and Medieval Spain, 

13. An Historical Atlas of Islam, compiled by William C. Brice, under the 
patronage of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden, Brill, 1981. viii, 71 
pp., chiefly col. maps; 41 cm. Includes Bibl. refs, and Indexes. 

Shows worldwide expansion of Islamic states, with special maps of 
Moorish Spain and North Africa. 

14. Index of Islamic Literature, Regular Supplement to The Muslim World 
Book Review (Leicester, U.K.). 

Covers new publications in English on the entire Islamic world, 
past and present. See also below, no. 22. 

15. Index Islamicus: 1665-1905 A bibliography of articles on Islamic sub- 
jects in periodicals and other collective publications, compiled by 
Wolgang Behn. Millersville, PA, Adiyok, 1989. xxx, 869 pp.; ill. 

Contains thematic and geographical divisions, and coverage of 



Moorish Spain and North Africa. 

16. Index Islamicus: 1906-55, compiled by J. D. Pearson, with the assis- 
tance of Julia F. Ashton, Cambridge, UK, W. Heffer & Sons, 1958. 
xxxvi, 896 pp. A catalogue of periodical articles and other collective 

Contains a special section on Muslims in Spain and Italy. 

17. Index Islamicus. Supplement. 1956-1960. A catalogue of articles on Is- 
lamic subjects in periodicals and other collective publications, compiled 
by J.D. Pearson. Cambridge, Heffer & Sons Ltd., 1962. xxviii, 316 pp. 
Also Supplement 1961-65 (1967); Supplement 1966-70 (1972); 
Supplement 1971-75 (1977). 

18. Index Islamicus 1976-1980. Part 1: Articles, compiled by J.D. Pearson, 
London, Mansell, 1983. xliii; 539 pp. Index. 

Contains both thematic and geographical divisions. 

19. Index Islamicus 1976—1980. Part 2: Monographs, compiled by J.D. 
Pearson and Wolgang Behn. London, Mansell, 1983. 348 pp. Index. 
Both thematic and geographical divisions. 

Contains a section on North Africa and Spain. 

20. Littlefield, David W. The Islamic Near East and North Africa. An An- 
notated Guide to Books in English for Non-Specialists, Littleton, Colo., 
Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1977. 375 pp; Indexes. 

A useful guide. 

21. Marin, Manuela. “Arabic-Islamic Libraries and Bibliography in Spain,” 
Bulletin, British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, 11 (No.2, 1984), 

22. Muslim World Book Review, quarterly publication of the Islamic Foun- 
dation, Leicester, U.K. (Autumn 1981 — .) 

Covers new publications on the global Islamic world, past and 
present. Features include Book Reviews and New Books Received. 
See also above, no. 14. 

23. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. Macropaedia. Knowledge in Depth. 
Vol. 22. 15th ed. Chicago, 111., Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1990. 111 . 

Contains a good brief section on Moorish Spain, and an up-to-date 
select Bibliography on Islamic history and culture. 

24. The Quarterly INDEX ISLAMICUS . Current Books. Articles and Papers, 
compiled by G.J. Roper, Cambridge, [University Libraryj/London, 
Mansell Publishing Ltd., (1976 - ). 

Contains an annual Index of Subjects and Names. Thematic and 
geographical divisions. Has a special section on Moorish Spain. 

25. Recently Published Articles . Washington, DC., American Historical 
Association. Vol. 1. (Feb. 1976 -). 

Appears 3 times per year. Geographical divisions, treated chrono- 
logically. The section on medieval Spain covers the Moors. 



Golden Age of the Moor 



26. Ronart, Stephan, and Nandy Ronart. Concise Encyclopaedia of Arabic 
Civilization, vol. 2, The Arab West, New York, Praeger, 1966. vii. 413 
pp., maps; tables of rulers; Bibl.: 408-409. No Index. 

A brief overall historical introduction to the Islamic civilization of 
North Africa and Spain. 

27. Roolvink, Roelof et al, compilers. Historical Atlas of the Muslim 
Peoples, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press/Amsterdam, 
Djambatan, 1969. iv, 40 pp. 

Comprises 56 maps with annotation, covering the whole Islamic 
world chronologically, including Moorish Spain. 

28. Sauvaget, Jean (1901-1950), Introduction to the History of the Muslim 
East, a bibliographical guide, based on the 2nd [French] ed., as recast 
by Claude Cahen, Berkeley/Los Angeles, University of California Press, 
1965. xxi, 252 pp.; Index of Names; Part III: Historical Bibliographies. 

Chapter 24 covers the Muslim West (North Africa, Sicily and Spain), 
and Chapter 25 deals with the influence of Muslim culture in Europe. 

29. Shields, Graham J., compiler. Spain (World Bibliographical Series, vol. 
60), Oxford, U.K./Santa Barbara, CA, Clio Press, 1985, xxxvi, 340 
pp.; map; Index. 

Contains only a few items on Moorish Spain. Although the author 
acknowledges the great impact of the Moors on Spanish civilization 
for almost 800 years, his List of Rulers of Spain starts with Isabella I 
of Castille and Ferdinand II of Aragon (1479-1504). 

30. Wilgus, Alva Curtis, compiler. Latin America. Spain and Portugal, a 
selected and annotated bibliographical guide to books published in the 
United States. 1954-1974, Metuchen, N.J., Scarecrow Press, 1977. xv, 
910 pp. Index. 

Contains only a few items on Moorish Spain. 

B. General: History and Culture 

31. Abel, Armand. “Spain: Internal Division,” in Von Grunebaum; ed., 
Unity and variety in Muslim Civilization (1955), pp. 207-230. 

For full bibliographical details, see below, no. 149. 

32. Abercrombie, Thomas J., “When the Moors ruled Spain,” National 
Geographic, 174 (July 1988), 86-119. Photographs (in color) by Bruno 
Barbey. Map; Calendar of Events. 

A journalistic account of the Moors in Spain and Morocco in the 
form of a modem travelogue. 

33. Abun-Nasr, Jamil M. A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period, 
Cambridge, U.K./New York, Cambridge University Press, 1987. Rev. 
and expanded version of the 1975 edition, xvi, 455 pp. Bibl.: pp. 429- 
439; Index. 

Includes a political history of Moorish Spain, with the emphasis on 
the two Berber or African dynasties, namely the Almoravides and the 

34. Ahmad, Aziz, A History of Islamic Sicily (Edinburgh University Islamic 
Surveys, 10), Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1975. xii, 147 
pp. 111.; map; Bibl.: pp. 124-136; Index. 

The author gives an historical overview of the Muslim presence on 
Sicily and of the transmission of the Islamic legacy through Sicily and 
Italy. The book provides an interesting comparison with contempora- 
neous Moorish Spain. 

35. Ali, Ameer (1849-1928). A Short History of the Saracens, being a 
concise account of the rise and decline of the Saracenic power and the 
economic, social and intellectual development of the Arab nation, from 
the earliest times to the destruction of Bagdadr and the expulsion of 
the Moors from Spain, London/New York, MacMillan, 1899. xix, 638 
pp. geneal. tables, fold, maps, plates. Bibl.: 626-627; Index. Several 
chapters refer to Moorish Spain, with attention also given to cultural 

36. Altamira y Crevea, R.. “Western Caliphate,” in Cambridge Mediaeval 
History, edited by H.M. Gwatkin et al. Vol. 3: Germany and the West- 
ern Empire, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1957. Ch. XVI, 
409—442. Chapter Bibl.: pp. 631-635. 

Comprises an overview of the history of Moorish Spain up to the 
Umayyad Period (11th century). 

37. Arie, Rachel. L’Espagne musulmane au temps des Nasrides (1232- 
1492), Paris, Editions E. de Boccard, 1973. 528 pp. maps, pis.; geneal. 
tables. Bibl.: [13]-26 

The Nasrids of Granada were the last Moorish Dynasty in Spain. 
Besides political history the book also deals with cultural developments, 
society and institutions. 

38. Ane, Rachel. Etudes sur la civilisation de I’Espaane musulmane, Leiden/ 
New York, Brill, 1990. (Medieval Iberian Peninsula Texts and Studies, 
vol. 6), viii, 286 pp.; ill.; Bibl. refs.; Indexes. 

A collection of previously published articles (between 1965 and 
1987) on various aspects of the history and culture of Moorish Spain 
and its relations with Northwest Africa. 

39. Atiyah, Edward, The Arabs. The origins, present conditions, and pros- 
pects of the Arab World (Pelican Books, A 350), Harmondsworth, 
Middlesex, U.K., Penguin Books, 1958. rev. ed. 250 pp.; maps; No 
Bibl.; no Index. 

The term Arabs is used here in a cultural sense. A good overall 
survey. Chapter 2: “The Place of the Arabs in History” includes a 
discussion of the Moors in North Africa and Spain. 


Golden Age of the Moor 

40. Bosworth, Clifford E. The Islamic Dynasties, a chronological and ge- 
nealogical handbook (Islamic Surveys, 5), Edinburgh, Edinburgh Uni- 
versity Press, 1967. xviii, 245 pp.; Bibl. refs.; Indexes. 

Chapter 2 covers North Africa and Spain. 

41. Bovill, E.W. The Golden Trade of the Moors. 2nd ed. revised and with 
additional material by Robin Hallett, London/New York, Oxford Uni- 
versity Press, 1970, xvi, 293 pp. Bibl.: 269-271; Index. 

The focus is on the Moorish trans-Saharan trade and the Western 
Sudanese states. Themes discussed include the Almoravides, the 
Almohads, Ibn Battutah, Ibn Khaldun, and Leo Africanus. 

42. Brockelmann, Carl (1868-1956). History of the Islamic Peoples , with a 
review of events, 1939-1947, by Moshe Perlman. Eng. trans. by J. 
Carmichael amd M. Perlman, New York, Putnam’s, 1947, xx, 582 pp., 
8 maps, 1947; New York, Capricorn Books, 1960. xiix, 582 pp; Bibl.: 
539-549. Index. 

Contains a section on Moorish Spain and North Africa. 

43. Brown, Marguerite. Magnificent Muslims: the Story of Spain's Arab 
Centuries , New York, New World Press, 1981. 112 pp. Review. 

44. Irving, T.B. Muslim World Book Review , 4, no. 2 (1984), 33-36. 

A critical review which itself Contains two (typographical) errors, 
making the Umayyad dynasty still ruling in Spain in the “eighteenth” 
and the “nineteenth” centuries. 

45. Burckhardt, Titus. Moorish Culture in Spain , translated [from the Ger- 
man] by Alisa Jaffa, London/New York, McGraw Hill, 1972. 219 pp., 
111. (part, col.); maps; plans; Sel. Bibl.: pp. [221]— 222; Index. 

A discussion of all aspects of culture: arts, sciences, philosophy, 
literature, religion, and recreation. 

46. Burns, Robert I. Islam under the crusaders: colonial survival in the 
thirteenth-century kingdom of Valencia, Princeton, Princeton University 
Press, 1973. xxxi, 475 pp.; ill. Bibl.: pp. 421-456; Index. 

47. Burns, Robert I. Medieval Colonialism: Postcrusade Exploitation of 
Islamic Valencia , Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1975. xxiv, 
394 pp., Bibl.: pp. 349-375; Index. 

The emphasis is on the tax system as instrument of Moorish exploi- 

48. Burns, Robert I. Moors and Crusaders in Mediterranean Spain (Col- 
lected Studies series, no. 73]), London, Variorum Reprints, 1978., 328 
pp, ill., Bibl. refs.; Index. 

Reprints of previously published articles that deal with various as- 
pects of Moorish-Christian relations. 

49. Burns, Robert I. Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the crusader king - 
dom of Valencia: societies in symbiosis (Cambridge Iberian and Latin 
American Studies), Cambridge, UK,/ New York, Cambridge University 



Press, 1984. xx, 363 pp. ill., Bibl.: pp. 331-345; Index. 

50. Calvert, Albert F. (1872-1946). The Alhambra, London, G. Philip & 
Son, 1904. vii, 464 pp.; including 80 col. plates; front, (port.). 

The Alhambra is the famous Red Palace built by the Moors in 
Granada in the 14th century. Its Court of the Lions is particularly 

See also Irving, Washington, no. 96 and Bargebuhr, Frederick P., 
no 243 below. 

51. Castro, Amerigo (1885—1972). The Structure of Spanish History, transl. 
from the, Spanish by E. L. King, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 
1954. Bibl. footnotes. A Revised translation of the author’s Espaha en 
su historia: cristianos , moros y judios, Buenos Aires, 1968. 

The author’s argument is' that post- 1492 Christian Spain was not a 
continuation of the earlier Visigothic Spain but developed out of the 
mixed Moorish culture. 


See Monroe, James T. below, no. 189. 

52. Chandler, Wayne B. “The Moor: Light of Europe’s Dark Age, “ in 
Van Sertima, Ivan, ed African Presence in Early Europe (1985), pp. 
144-175. 111., map, & Bibl. refs.: pp. 173-175. 

For full bibliographical details, see Van Sertima, ed., no. 146 below. 

The laudatory intent of Chandler has been to provide an Afrocentric 
historical overview of the Moors in Spain, beginning with a definition 
of the term “Moors”. Unfortunately, the quality of the essay is marred 
by sloppy scholarship (perhaps due to an overreliance on secondary 
sources not directly dealing with Moorish Spain): e.g. confusion be- 
tween “Moors” and “Muslims”; the term “Gibraltar” is derived from 
“Jabal Tariq,” which does not mean, as the author asserts, “General 
Tariq” but “Mount(ain) of Tariq,” (Tariq ibn-Ziyad was the African 
general who led the Moorish invasion of Spain in 711); the author 
erroneously describes the Almohade Dynasty as “the fourth and last 
Moorish Dynasty” in Spain; furthermore, there is no mention whatso- 
ever of either the Nasrids, the actual last Moorish Dynasty in Granada 
(1231-1492), or, surprisingly, of that fateful year in World History 

53. Chejne, Anwar G. “Some remarks on Hispano-Arabic culture,” Islamic 
Literature, (12 May 1966), 49-54; (Nov.), 19-28. 

54. Chejne, Anwar G. Muslim Spain, its history and culture , Minneappolis, 
University of Minnesota Press, 1974. xvi, 559 pp. Extensive Bibl. refs. 
(Notes): pp. 420-482; Bibl. of Catalogues & Mss.: pp. 485-490; Bibl. 
of Western Works: pp. 491-516; Bibl. of Eastern Works (mostly Arabic): 
pp. 517-530; 111.; maps; Index. 

An indepth study of the history and culture of Moorish Spain. Copi- 


Golden Age of the Moor 



ous references to primary sources. The book is stronger on the cultural 
achievements of the Moors than on their history. 

The bibliographies constitute a valuable resource for Moorish Spain. 

55. Chejne, Anwar G. Islam and the West: the Moriscos, a cultural and 
social history , Albany, State University of New York, c 1983. viii, 248 
pp. Bibl.: pp. 216-238; Index. 

Discusses the history of the Muslims in Spain who shortly after the 
reconquest in 1492 were forced to become baptized Christians or face 
persecution, in direct violation of the Granada treaty of surrender. 
They were derogatorily called Moriscos which is Spanish for “Little 
Moors”. According to the author, the Moriscos were “(b)orn and reared 
in the Iberian Peninsula of mixed ancestry (Spanish, Jewish, Berber, 
Arab and other ethnic groups)” and “considered aliens in their own 
land, heretics who presented an imminent danger to the state and 


56. Faris el-Mansoury, Muslim World Book Review , 7, no. 2 (1987), 39- 

On the Moriscos, see also Lea, Henry C., no. 107, Monroe, James 
T., no. 125, and Gayangos, P. de, no. 251 below. 

57. Christopher, John B. The Islamic Tradition, New York, Harper & Row, 
1972. xxii, 185 pp.; chronology; 2 maps; Bibl.: 166-177; Index. 

A brief introduction to the subject. Several references to Spain. In 
the chapter on Philosophy Averroes and Ibn Khaldun are discussed. 

58. Collins, Roger. Early Mediaeval Spain. Unity in Diversity, 400-1000 , 
London, MacMillan, 1983. xx, 317 pp.; tables; maps; bibliographies. 

The book stresses the pre-Moorish period and gives attention to the 
Umayyad dynasty. 


59. Abdul Wahhab Boase, Muslim World Book Review, 5, no. 3 (1985), 53 

A brief assessment in which the reviewer rightly asserts that “ 
most books by Western academics, no reference is made in the footnotes 
to any modern publications on Islam by Muslim scholars.” 

60. Collins, Roger. The Arab Conquest of Spain. 710-797 , Oxford, U.K./ 
New York, Basil Blackwell, 1989. xii, 239 pp.; Bibl. refs.; Index. 

The book focusses on the political and cultural history of the first 
century of Moorish rule in Spain. 

61. Conde, Jose A. (d. 1820) History of the Dominion of the Arabs in Spain , 
trans. fr. the Spanish by Mrs Jonathan Foster, London, G. Bell & Sons, 
1854; 1909-1913. 3 vols. Vol 1: iv, 511 pp. Spanish original published 
posthumously in 1820-1821; 2nd ed. Barcelona, 1844. 

A detailed political history. 


See Monroe, James T. below, no. 189. According to Monroe, 
Conde’s was a pioneering work that established an historical framework 
for the study of Moorish Spain. Conde’s work had wide influence on 
European Romantics and on Americans like Washington Irving whose 
own writings in turn further fueled a romantic interest in Moorish 

62. Coppee, Henry (1821—1895). History of the Conquest of Spain by the 
Arab-Moors, Boston, Little, 1881. 

63. Creasy, Edward (1812-1878). The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, 
from Marathon to Waterloo, London, 1862. New ed.: New York, T.Y. 
Crowell, 1918. xiii, pp. 535. 

One of the battles described is the Battle of Tours (732), near 
Poitiers, southern France, where a Moorish army was defeated by the 
Frankish ruler, Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne. 

64. Daniel, Norman. Islam and the West: the making of an image, 
Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1962. ix. 443 pp. ill.; Bibl.: 
pp, 395^27; 1980, xi, 448 pp.; Bibl.: pp. 395-432; Index. 

65. Daniel, Norman. The Arabs and Medieval Europe. (Arab Background 
series) London, Longman, 1975; 2nd ed., London/New York, Longman/ 
Beirut, Libraire du Liban, 1979. xiv, 378 pp. [2] leaves of plates; ill.; 
Bibl,: 356-357; Index. 

Contains many references to Moorish Spain. 

66. deGraft-Johnson, J(ohn).C., African Glory. The Story of Vanished Ne- 
gro Civilizations, Baltimore, Black Classic Press, 1986. 1st pub. 1954. 
Afterword J.H. Clarke. Ch. 7, pp. 68-76, deals with the Moors in 

Though brief, this Ghanaian historian’s treatment of the Moors is 
refreshingly Afrocentric, as is the whole book which was a pioneering 
study when it first appeared in 1954. 

67. Dozy, Reinhart P. A. (1820-1883), Spanish Islam: a history of the 
Moslems in Spain, tr. with a bibliographical introduction and additional 
notes by Francis Griffin Stokes, London, Chatto & Windus, 1913. 
xxxvi, 769 pp. fold, map; “Authorities”:pp. 742-747. The French 
orignal, Histoire des Musulmans d’Espagne. 711-1110 , later revised and 
published in 3 volumes (Leiden, 1932) by E. Levi-Provenqal, for long 
remained the standard historical work on Moorish Spain. A Dutch 
scholar of Islam, Dozy was highly critical of Conde’s work on Moorish 
Spain. The book only deals with the period 711-1110 


See Introduction by Stokes, and Monroe, James T., no. 189 below. 

68. Draper, John W.(l 81 1-1882). A History of the Intellectual Development 
of Europe, New York, Harper, 1863, xii, 631 pp. Index. No Bibl. refs.; 
No Bibliography. 



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